- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Ryan Church is frustrated.

With Washington Nationals center fielder Alex Escobar sidelined for the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury, the final four weeks were supposed to be Church’s opportunity to show what he can do.

That changed Friday when the Nationals acquired 26-year-old center fielder Nook Logan in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. Washington plans to play Logan extensively the rest of the season to learn whether he is the answer to the club’s problems at that position.

Church, meanwhile, has been relegated to bench duty as a pinch hitter or runner.

“I’ve been on a swivel all year,” Church said. “It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. I better be ready when I get called on.”

Church has performed well since his call-up from Class AAA New Orleans on July 22, batting .284 (25-for-88) with 16 RBI in 32 games before yesterday. He has eight home runs, one shy of matching his total as a rookie last season.

Unfortunately for Church, he doesn’t appear to be in the club’s plans for September.

“What it means for Church is that he’s going to get some playing time in other places, the [corner outfield positions] maybe, pinch hit, coming off the bench right now, pinch running, whatever,” manager Frank Robinson said. “I don’t know if [playing time is] that important or not. …

“The jury’s kind of still out on him because of the lack of consistency. We probably have a decision to make with him this winter. All of us feel like we’ve seen enough to make a pretty good sound decision on him, one way or the other.”

Possible changes

The Nationals haven’t named a starter for tomorrow’s series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals because of Saturday’s day/night doubleheader.

Left-hander Billy Traber was scheduled to start the game rained out Friday, but he pitched in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Traber would pitch on short rest if he started tomorrow, an unlikely scenario.

Left-hander Mike O’Connor is a possible starter for tomorrow. O’Connor pitched 22/3 scoreless innings for New Orleans in a rehab assignment Friday, and tomorrow would be five days since that start.

Robinson also may opt for a bullpen game since O’Connor is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left elbow.

With New Orleans’ season ending yesterday, there’s a strong possibility O’Connor and a few other Zephyrs could be added to the Nationals active roster sometime before tomorrow.

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

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