Wednesday, May 3, 2006

NEW YORK — Gary Majewski’s late-inning troubles appear to have cost the right-hander his setup job with the Washington Nationals.

Manager Frank Robinson said yesterday he plans to use the struggling Majewski earlier in games instead of the seventh- and eighth-inning situations he’s become used to in the last year.

And with veteran Felix Rodriguez, who is serving his three-game suspension, also struggling, Robinson revealed that his new setup man likely will be left-hander Mike Stanton.

“My thinking right now is you go to [Majewski] earlier,” Robinson said. “I’m thinking really about using Stanton in the eighth inning. He’s been very effective.”

Stanton, 38, who entered last night’s game against the New York Mets with a 1.64 ERA in 13 games, pitched a scoreless inning. He’s also been equally effective against left- and right-handed hitters, with left-handers hitting .154 against him and right-handers hitting .182.

Majewski, who took the loss Monday night after committing a throwing error in the ninth inning, said he understood his minor demotion. He’s admittedly dealing with a lack confidence right now but said he can work his way out of the funk with a couple of good outings.

“You can’t worry about anything like that,” he said. “You can only go out and do what you can every day. You can’t get worried about being sent down. You have to go out and just pitch.”

Robinson said he still believes in Majewski’s physical gifts. He just wants to see the young reliever get his head back in order.

“It has nothing to do with mechanics,” Robinson said. “It’s mental. He’s not thinking out there. He’s not understanding the situation of what he has to do to be successful.”

Injury update

Right-hander Pedro Astacio, still on the 15-day disabled list with a strained forearm, returned to Washington yesterday to be examined after complaining of continued soreness. Team doctor Ben Shaffer administered stress X-rays and an enhanced MRI of Astacio’s elbow and forearm and determined that the pitcher is still recovering from his flexor strain. He’ll be shut down for two to three days and re-evaluated. …

Utilityman Robert Fick, recovering from elbow surgery in March, participated in catcher’s throwing drills yesterday and is close to resuming his rehabilitation assignment. Fick will return with the club to Washington before leaving again. …

Outfielder Ryan Church was available to pinch-hit last night after missing three games with a viral infection.

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