- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

MILWAUKEE — When Washington Nationals utilityman Robert Fick showed up yesterday morning at Miller Park, he was stunned when he saw his name in the starting lineup as the cleanup hitter and starting first baseman.

“Did somebody die?” Fick yelled across the clubhouse.

This was the first time this season Fick has started a game in the field. He’s come off the bench as a pinch hitter and as an emergency catcher.

“Honestly, I’m just as surprised as you guys are,” Fick said before the game. “I will tell you this, it’s not like I’m not ready because you’ve got to be ready. When you are a bench player, you show up ready to go and that’s the way it goes.”

Fick, who opened the season on the 15-day disabled list after having elbow surgery during spring training, went hitless in four at-bats yesterday. Fick is 1-for-5 as a pinch hitter.

Center field situation

Nationals manager Frank Robinson rested, or didn’t start, many of his regular players yesterday. But one move Robinson made may be more than temporary.

Robinson started Damian Jackson in center field over slumping Marlon Byrd, who has struck out five times in his last eight at-bats. Byrd is just 3-for-21 (.143) with three RBI and one walk in his last seven games.

“What am I getting? One hit a week?” Robinson asked. “He’s just not making good contact. He’s not getting good at-bats and maybe a day off or something, I don’t know, give somebody else a chance. These [bench players] also have to play a little bit. Marlon is just not having good at-bats. A lot of take strikeouts, a lot of swinging strikeouts, no contact. We’re just trying to get him straightened out a little bit.”

Jackson went 1-for-3 with two walks and a run and also had a throwing error. From May 22 to 27, Jackson started six straight games in center field, going 5-for-21 (.238) with a double, triple, two home runs and three RBI.

Zimmerman rests

Rookie Ryan Zimmerman was given the day off yesterday.

Robinson said his third baseman has been irritated lately from back spasms and could use the rest. Robinson started Brendan Harris at third.

Zimmerman missed a game May 1 because of his grandmother’s death and attended her funeral in Detroit. Yesterday was Zimmerman’s first game off since.

“It’s the first real one I’ve had. It’s a little different,” said Zimmerman, who is a leading candidate for NL rookie of the year. “The first year you’re going to go through bumps and bruises and stuff that you’ve never experienced before, but that’s all part of the learning process.”

Bray’s one-pitch win

Since stats.com began tracking pitches in 1987, the statistical service never has had a case of a pitcher winning in his major league debut on one pitch like Bill Bray did Saturday night.

The closest thing stats.com has is Jim Dougherty, who picked up a one-pitch win for the Houston Astros in his third career game May 2, 1995, and six days after his April 27, 1995, debut.

Bray, who was called up from Class AAA New Orleans on Friday, threw an outside fastball in the eighth inning, and catcher Brian Schneider threw out Corey Koskie on an attempted steal to end the inning.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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