- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 28, 2007

NEW YORK — The Washington Nationals placed Jason Bergmann on the 15-day disabled list yesterday, as they determined the right-hander’s strained hamstring wouldn’t be able to heal in time to start tomorrow against the New York Mets.

As a result, the Nationals will send 25-year-old Joel Hanrahan to the mound tonight, becoming the team’s second starting pitcher to make his major league debut in three days.

That wasn’t the way the Nationals wanted their rotation to shake out for their four-game weekend series at Shea Stadium, but they had no choice. Bergmann hurt his hamstring running the bases Tuesday night, and though he remained hopeful of making a quick recovery, the team decided not to take a chance and placed him on the disabled list.

“If I go out there and get hurt again or make it worse, then it was definitely the wrong decision,” Bergmann said. “There was just too much against throwing me out there because I say I’m going to be OK.”

Bergmann’s second stint on the disabled list this season is particularly frustrating for him because he never had a chance to find his groove after returning from his first stint. With a 2.76 ERA in eight starts before injuring his elbow, Bergmann has posted a 7.96 ERA in six starts since.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “My arm feels good. I was just getting back into the swing of things, and then because of me running hard, now I’ve got a hamstring that hurts.”

Hanrahan, who was 5-4 with a 3.70 ERA at Class AAA Columbus, will make his debut after seven seasons in the minors, most of them with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization. He joins left-hander John Lannan in cracking the majors for the first time this week.

“He’s a fairly young guy still, and a big strong kid with a power arm, showed flashes of a good breaking ball,” said manager Manny Acta, who was impressed with the right-hander this spring. “It’ll be interesting to see him again four months later.”

Flores impresses

Jesus Flores was back on the bench last night, serving in the backup catching role he has held all season. But if the rookie’s clutch performances the previous two days were any indication, he’ll be assuming a full-time role someday.

Flores delivered a pair of big hits for the Nationals, hitting a two-run, go-ahead double in the ninth inning Wednesday night at Philadelphia, then winning Thursday’s game with a three-run homer in the eighth.

The 22-year-old, a Rule 5 draftee who had never played above Class A before this season, has made significant strides the last few months. He’s hitting .361 (13-for-36) with two homers and 10 RBI in his last 15 games.

“I’ve been learning from the beginning, doing some drills that help me to be prepared for the opportunities that Manny gives to me coming off the bench,” Flores said. “I’m studying a little bit more what the pitchers are throwing to me. I’m getting there.”

Flores‘ immediate future remains muddled because starting catcher Brian Schneider is signed through 2009. But Acta made it clear the Nationals see Flores as the organization’s long-term answer behind the plate.

“We think he’s going to be an everyday frontline catcher in the big leagues,” the manager said. “We think he’s going to hit for power. He’s already showed that in A-ball. And we’re very, very impressed by the defense he’s shown at this level.”

The waiting game

Though the Nationals and first baseman Dmitri Young have all but agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract extension, the team has not made public any plans to announce the move.

A formal announcement and press conference could come Monday once the team returns home.

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