- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

MILWAUKEE — Washington Nationals left-hander Bill Bray couldn’t hide his butterflies.

When a group of reporters approached Bray to ask him about his first major league call-up before yesterday’s batting practice, Bray at first declined because “we [pitchers] have a meeting and I can’t be late for my first meeting.”

Bray was nervous but excited. He kept looking around the clubhouse to see if the other pitchers were heading down the hallway to meet with pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Closer Chad Cordero was still seated in front of his locker.

Veteran left-handed specialist Mike Stanton was just getting dressed. Bray recognized the situation in Miller Park’s spacious visitor’s clubhouse and agreed to a quick interview.

“I’ve definitely got the butterflies going in my stomach and it’s all part of it, getting that excited feeling,” Bray said.

Bray arrived in Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon from New Orleans, where he went 4-1 with five saves and a 3.98 ERA in 21 appearances out of the Zephyrs’ bullpen. Yesterday, his parents, grandparents and fiancee arrived in anticipation of what could have been Bray’s major league debut.

“They got here after I came to the field today,” said Bray, who did not get into the Nationals’ 10-4 victory. “I talked to them once they got off the plane. I know they’re here. It’s nice having them here.”

All of the Nationals’ first-round draft picks the past three years have reached the majors. Bray, the 13th overall selection in the 2004 draft out of William & Mary, joins Cordero (20th overall in 2003) and rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (fourth overall) on the Nationals’ active roster.

The Nationals were forced to bring up Bray when left-hander Joey Eischen was lost for the season after learning he had nearly torn the muscle completely off his left rotator cuff.

Manager Frank Robinson isn’t sure how he’s going to use the hard-throwing 22-year-old reliever. Bray, who turns 23 on Monday when the club is in Atlanta, is not expected to give the club one or two innings right away but will come in when the situation dictates itself.

“If there’s a need and I need a left-hander early in the game, or I feel like I need him in a situation, he’ll be out there,” Robinson said.

With the success of pitchers Mike O’Connor, Shawn Hill, Saul Rivera, and to a degree, Santiago Ramirez — all former teammates of Bray’s in New Orleans — Bray has additional pressure to meet the standards that quartet has already established.

Bray began last season at Class A Potomac and went 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in eight games. That was enough for him to be promoted to Class AA Harrisburg. By the end of June, Bray was pitching at New Orleans. His meteoric rise through the minors slowed down in the Pacific Coast League, where was 1-4 with a 5.06 ERA in 23 games (211/3 innings).

“I went up to Triple-A last year and did all right for a while and then struggled a lit bit toward the end of they year,” Bray said. “So, I was just looking forward to going back to Triple-A this year and proving that I could pitch at that level.”

No platoon in right

Robinson started Mike Vento in right field last night for the third time since he was called up from New Orleans last Saturday to replace injured starter Jose Guillen. He batted eighth and went 0-for-4 with a walk.

Robinson said Vento, who led the Pacific Coast League with a .375 batting average at the time of his call-up, is not necessarily the everyday right fielder. Coming into last night’s game, the right-handed swinging Vento had two hits in four at-bats.

“It’s not a platoon thing. It’s just who I feel like on that day was the best guy up there,” Robinson said. “Right now, Vento is bringing the full package and also we’re facing three left-handers here. His play out there seems to be all right and he looks strong with some decent at-bats. He seems to have an idea what he wants to do at the plate. Over the next three games is a good time to test him.”

Roster move

Following last night’s game, the Nationals placed Ramirez on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain (retroactive to May 30) and will recall utility infielder Brendan Harris today from New Orleans. Harris was leading the Pacific Coast League’s fourth-leading hitter at .340.

Negro Leagues tribute

The Nationals and the Brewers wore throwback uniforms honoring teams from the Negro Leagues. The Nationals wore the uniform of the Homestead Grays (1937-48), who played some of their games in the District. The Brewers wore the home white uniform of the Milwaukee Bears, members of the Negro National League in 1923.


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