- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ATLANTA — If there was one thing Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta felt confident about entering the season, it was his club’s defense. After a solid spring in the field, there was little reason to believe his team would give away many outs once the regular season began.

Oh, how wrong he was.

The Nationals already have committed 11 errors, more than any other team in the majors. At that rate, they’ll be charged with nearly 200 defensive miscues by season’s end.

The shoddy glovework has taken Washington’s players by surprise.

“A little bit, because we played pretty well during spring training,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I think we’re a lot better than what we’ve shown. It’ll come around. It’s hard to explain, because we’re not making mental errors. They’re all physical. Hopefully we’ll get better as the season goes on.”

Zimmerman, a Gold Glove caliber third baseman, has been charged with three errors himself, though two of them could have easily been scored otherwise. Most of the other mistakes have been legitimate, including the two made Tuesday night during an 8-0 loss to the Braves.

First baseman Dmitri Young picked up his second error when he dropped a throw from shortstop Felipe Lopez. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard later muffed a routine popup in shallow right field, a gaffe that produced three unearned runs.

Of course, both of those errors were committed by players who weren’t originally expected to be in Washington’s lineup. Injuries to center fielder Nook Logan and shortstop Cristian Guzman prompted a reconfiguring of the club’s defense, and Young wasn’t even in major league camp until the final two weeks of spring training.

“You have five position players out of place,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “It’s like a different team.”

Acta made the same point, though he added he expects more from the players he puts out in the field.

“These are professional athletes,” the manager said. “I’m not making excuses for them. We’ve got to do better than that, but this is not the team that played that good defense in spring training.”

King to have MRI

Ray King is expected to have an MRI taken today on his injured left shoulder, a procedure that should reveal whether the veteran reliever has structural damage or merely a temporary case of tendinitis.

King, who had to leave Tuesday night’s game in the ninth inning after complaining of shoulder discomfort, is holding out hope the injury isn’t serious and he can return in a few days. He has made only one trip to the disabled list in his nine-year career (with left elbow inflammation in 2002) and has never had any shoulder problems.

“The DL is something I don’t know anything about,” King said, “and hopefully I don’t go there.”

Bowden said it was too soon to know whether King would need to miss two weeks, and there didn’t appear to be an urgent desire yesterday to add another reliever to a bullpen that already has seven members.

King, who has given up five runs in 32/3 innings already this season, acknowledged his shoulder hadn’t felt right all week and attributes that to his struggles. He knew he probably shouldn’t have pitched in Tuesday’s game and was regretting his decision not to inform the team of his pain before entering from the bullpen.

“I have a reputation for wanting to be out there,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a difference of being smart and being stubborn, and last night I was being stubborn.”

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