- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

ATLANTA — With catcher Brian Schneider on the 15-day disabled list and opponents running rampant on the basepaths, the Washington Nationals were forced to make roster moves yesterday to address the problem.

The Nationals purchased the contract of catcher Wiki Gonzalez from Class AAA New Orleans and optioned right-handed reliever Jason Bergmann to the Zephyrs. To make room for Gonzalez on the club’s 40-man roster, the Nationals transferred injured shortstop Cristian Guzman from the 15-day to the 60-day DL.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson wasted little time in getting Gonzalez acclimated with the club. Robinson started Gonzalez, who arrived yesterday morning from New Orleans, and batted him seventh in the series finale against the Atlanta Braves.

The moves were made to help stop opponents’ success on the basepaths. Before yesterday’s game, teams had stolen 23 bases in 29 attempts this season.

“What it will do is have someone back there with arm strength that we don’t have. It will at least stop the non-runners,” Robinson said.

Calling up Gonzalez paid immediate dividends.

Jeff Francoeur, the hero of Saturday night’s 8-5 Atlanta win with a walk-off grand slam, tested Gonzalez early yesterday. Francoeur, who has been caught all three times he has tried to steal a base this season, tried again in the second inning. Gonzalez threw Francoeur out with room to spare to end the inning.

Like Robinson said, the move “will at least stop the non-runners.”

Gonzalez said: “I got in this morning. It’s nothing different. I’m in the lineup and I’m happy to be here.”

With Bergmann optioned back to New Orleans for the second time this season, the Nationals now have 11 pitchers on the active roster. As battered and beleaguered as the pitching staff is, the last thing the team needs is fewer pitchers.

Bergmann had options remaining, making him a prime candidate to be moved on any transaction.

“I don’t think it was about pitching, it was [that] they needed to fill a different need — a need for another catcher,” said Bergmann, who went 0-0 with a 5.91 ERA in 11 games in two stints with the Nationals. “I have options. I have plenty of options, and I know that factors in greatly. A lot of these guys are veterans, they don’t have options.”

Vidro responds to rumor

Rumors are circulating that plenty of teams are interested in some of the Nationals’ veteran stars. One report out of New York has New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya interested in acquiring second baseman Jose Vidro.

Minaya served as the Montreal Expos GM for three seasons (2002-04) and knows Vidro pretty well. Any deal for Vidro would require the Mets to deal some of their top young prospects. Apparently, Vidro has read the report.

“We’ve got to understand that this is a business and a group of new owners,” said Vidro, who is the franchise’s longest-tenured player with eight seasons. “We’ve got to understand that they have plans. If their plans are to get young players and build up, so be it.”

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