- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

The Washington Nationals are changing the back end of their starting rotation with right-hander Jason Bergmann and right-hander Jerome Williams switching places.

“At the end of spring training, their turns didn’t work the way we wanted them, and it means Williams is going to flip to four and Bergmann is going to go to his original fifth slot,” Acta said. “The thinking is that Williams was our fourth guy coming out of spring training. Due to the schedule of their pitching in spring training, it fell that way. But now that we have a day off, we’re going to make the switch.”

This change had nothing to do with Bergmann’s performance Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 4-3 loss at RFK Stadium. Bergmann lasted just 32/3 innings and he walked six batters. Bergmann allowed four runs on five hits, but threw 91 pitches just to get into the fourth inning.

During last night’s pregame batting practice, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden had an animated discussion with Bergmann behind the batting cage.

“He basically expressed his disapproval of six walks,” Bergmann said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Obviously, it’s not something that I’m proud of, so I agreed with everything he said. I know it’s some mechanical failures. I have a tendency to fly out, and when I fly out, my hand is on the side of the ball. He [Bowden] just said go out there and pitch better.”

Castro suspended

Earlier in the week, the Class AAA Columbus Clippers placed former Nationals second baseman Bernie Castro on the inactive/suspended list because he violated the minor league’s substance abuse policy in 2005, when he was in the Baltimore Orioles organization.

Castro, who the Nationals outrighted to Columbus on March 21, must serve a 15-game suspension before he can play for the Clippers. He is a first-time offender.

“In 2005, he violated the minor league drug policy, since then he was purchased to a major league contract and never served his suspension from 2005,” Bowden said. “So, therefore, once we outrighted him off the major league contract, he was then now back under the minor league policy, which means a 15-game suspension that he was supposed to serve a couple years ago, he serves now.”

Last season, Castro played in 42 games for the Nationals and hit .227 with 10 RBI and 18 runs. He failed his drug test in 2005, when he was playing for the Class AAA Ottawa Lynx, an Orioles affiliate.

Rehabilitation front

Outfielder Alex Escobar has been shut down from throwing until his surgically repaired right shoulder feels better.

Setup man Luis Ayala injured his neck at the end of spring training. It is still bothering him, but his surgically repaired right elbow isn’t.

Right-hander Jason Simontacchi is still a few weeks away while he recovers from a right abductor strain suffered March 14 in a Grapefruit League game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

All three players are rehabbing at the Nationals’ spring training complex in Viera, Fla.

Simontacchi may be the closest to returning to the active roster.

“He’s is making good progress, but we’re still a couple weeks away,” Bowden said. “I still think it’s going to be late April or May 1 for him to be ready to come up here and help us.”

Athletic first pitches

Washington Capitals captain Chris Clark threw out last night’s first pitch. For tonight’s game, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell is scheduled to do the honors.

Want more Nats? Check out Nats Home Plate.

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