- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Washington Nationals added some outfield insurance before yesterday’s game, recalling Ryan Church from Class AAA New Orleans and optioning right-handed reliever Kevin Gryboski to the Zephyrs.

The move was necessary because center fielder Alex Escobar suffered a mild right hamstring strain in the eighth inning of Friday’s game. Escobar, who is listed as day-to-day, hit a pinch-hit two-run home run in the sixth inning yesterday.

This is Church’s second stint with the Nationals this season. He was recalled April 14 after opening the season with New Orleans, and hit .215 with four home runs and 11 RBI in 23 games before being optioned to Class AA Harrisburg in May.

He spent less than two weeks at Harrisburg and was transferred to New Orleans at the end of the month. In his last 14 games with the Zephyrs, Church hit .347 (17-for-49) with three home runs, four doubles and 10 RBI.

“This year has been a big reality check, a humbling experience,” he said. “I went down there and mentally I’ve gotten myself where I want to be and ready to solidify myself.”

Church entered yesterday’s game in the seventh inning as a pinch runner and stayed as a defensive replacement for Luis Matos, who started in center.

Matos, who was signed as a free agent on July 13, threw out Chicago’s Jacque Jones at the plate in the first inning. He went 1-for-3 yesterday with a double and a run.

Matos and Church provide added help in center field, especially with Escobar banged up. Escobar has been solid in the clutch lately and is hitting .429.

“This is not what I need right now,” Escobar said of his injury. “There’s an urgency, but there’s nothing I can do out there being injured or sore, especially playing center field, it’s not going to happen. There’s too much ground to cover.”

Gryboski’s reaction

Gryboski took his demotion well, considering his limited appearances. Since the Nationals purchased his contract from New Orleans last Saturday, Gryboski allowed four runs in just 22/3 innings in four games.

“Four games? I thought I threw well,” Gryboski said. “I missed on a couple pitches here and there, but I can still go down there and fine-tune my game a little more and I’ll be back. I had my chances. I’m not going to say that I didn’t have my chances.”

Vidro’s timetable

Jose Vidro said before yesterday’s game he’s going to try to return to the lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against the San Francisco Giants at RFK Stadium. Vidro has missed the last four games with a strained left hamstring.

As for trade rumors concerning him, Vidro said no team is going to deal for an injured player.

“First of all, I’ve got to make myself available,” Vidro said. “If somebody wants me, they want a player that’s ready to play, not just a player to fill out a spot or something.”

Drese getting closer

Injured right-hander Ryan Drese is scheduled to make his third rehab start Wednesday for Class AA Harrisburg. Drese, who has been on the disabled list since April 15 with a right elbow strain, is hoping it will be his last rehab assignment.

“I feel I’m close. I’m getting there, but I’ve got to throw more pitches and see how my arm and body reacts to it,” said Drese, who is 0-2 with a 5.19 ERA in two starts this season. “I’m pleased to be this far for sure.”

Drese said he’ll increase his pitch count to about 80 pitches on Wednesday. On Friday in Harrisburg, Drese lost his second rehab start. Drese allowed four runs — just one earned — on five hits in 22/3 innings. Most importantly, Drese threw 60 pitches in the game, another 20 in the bullpen afterward, and felt fine yesterday.

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