- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

Despite how impressive both Alex Escobar and Ryan Church have been at the plate lately, the Washington Nationals’ center field problems aren’t necessarily over.

Manager Frank Robinson has been pleasantly surprised by the two players’ production, but he said they must sustain it over a longer period to make him a believer.

“Church has been there what, two games now? Escobar’s been here playing how many games? Twelve games? You guys already got the center field problem all set,” Robinson told reporters. “I wish it was that easy. It’s a pleasant period of time right now. You hope the two of them, or one of them, can step up and really do the job. But there’s a lot of time left to make decisions on that. Let’s kind of reserve our conclusion.”

Over the past two seasons, the Nationals have used 11 players in center field. Before last night’s game against the San Francisco Giants at RFK Stadium, Church had five RBI in two starts since being recalled Saturday from Class AAA New Orleans.

Escobar, called up from Class AA Harrisburg earlier this month, has hit safely in 12 of his 13 games with the Nationals this season. However, he is out with a mild right hamstring strain and is listed as day-to-day.

Church, who was sent down to New Orleans earlier in the season after hitting .215 in 23 games, agreed with Robinson’s assessment. If the Nationals do trade left fielder Alfonso Soriano before Monday’s deadline, Church and Escobar could be starting side by side.

“The key is to keep rolling. That’s the thing,” Church said. “Baseball is a game that is played with ups and downs. The biggest thing is just having a quality at-bat after at-bat.”

Vidro update

An MRI taken yesterday on second baseman Jose Vidro’s left hamstring confirmed a strain and nothing more serious.

Vidro was examined in Cincinnati by Nationals senior medical consultant Tim Kremchek, who agreed with the initial diagnosis. Vidro, who is the franchise’s longest-tenured player, was placed on the 15-day disabled Tuesday retroactive to July 18 and is eligible to come off Wednesday.

Vidro is hitting .300 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 33 RBI in 90 games. He was injured July 17 in Miami.

Drese’s rehab

Injured right-hander Ryan Drese took the loss yesterday for Harrisburg in Altoona, Pa., in his third rehab start.

Drese, who has been on the DL since April 14 with a strained right forearm, pitched 32/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits, walking four and striking out one. Drese hopes that will be his last rehab start before rejoining the Nationals. He is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 91/3 innings with the Senators.

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