- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 15, 2007

MIAMI — D’Angelo Jimenez had little trouble with the pitchers in the Class AAA International League this season as an everyday player for the Columbus Clippers, but adjusting to a new role with the Washington Nationals has not been easy.

Jimenez has appeared in 27 games for the Nationals this season, but he has started only once and is 1-for-24 with four walks. He was with the team for most of April before being sent to the Clippers and returning late last month. The 29-year old middle infielder is 0-for-10 since returning to the team.

“I need to prove I can come off the bench and have good at-bats and get hits coming off the bench,” Jimenez said. “I need to go in there and relax a little bit — forget about the 1-for-22 or 23 or whatever I’ve been hitting. I just have to take it one at-bat at a time.”

Nationals manager Manny Acta mentioned Mets second baseman Jose Valentin as a guy who struggled in a utility role before performing much better when he became the team’s everyday second baseman.

“I just think it is a very tough job. He’s never done it,” Acta said. “He is a guy who just went down to Triple-A and hit .370 playing every day. It is just a tough job. You only get one at-bat a day against different pitchers. It is not like when you are playing every day and you can have a plan against certain pitchers.”

Jimenez, who was one of the Yankees’ top prospects, has been with seven organizations in seven seasons. He had his best minor league season with Columbus in 1999 when the Clippers were a Yankees affiliate. He hit .327 with 15 home runs and 88 RBI with Columbus and went 8-for-20 in a short stint with the Yankees.

His career was put on hold after he suffered a broken neck in a car accident in the Dominican Republic in January 2000. After essentially a lost season, the Padres acquired him the next June and he has been on the move a lot since.

Back in Columbus with a new organization, Jimenez hit .368 with seven home runs in 50 games before being recalled.

“It was tough to be all over the place like that. Mentally I just tried to get stronger and stronger and just tried not to get down and just be prepared for whatever happens,” Jimenez said. “That day when they took me out of the lineup [in Columbus], it sort of reminded me when the Yankees traded me. I was watching the [Nationals] game and I thought everybody was healthy and they took me out of the lineup so I thought, ‘Uh oh. They traded me.’ I am just glad to be up here and try to help the team.”

A shift for Church?

With Alex Escobar’s rehab progressing and his return near, it is possible he will play left field when he returns, meaning Ryan Church would shift over to patrol center.

It won’t be anything new for Church, who saw lots of time there earlier this season when Nook Logan was hurt.

“There really isn’t any [difference],” Church said. “There’s just more room to cover and more ground to run down balls. Honestly, I think it is a little easier because you do have more time and in case you have a bad read you have more time to catch up to it.”

He also played 51 games in center last season and 20 in 2005 for the Nationals. In the past the team has tried to find room in the lineup for his bat but wasn’t always comfortable with his defense in center.

“He has played a lot better this year than what I’ve seen of him in the past,” Acta said. “Especially earlier in the year in center field, he impressed me. He played a very good center field for us at the beginning of the season. I think it has been the fact that he has been healthy this year and been up here for a longer period of time.”

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