- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2007

BALTIMORE Robert Fick knows he”s contributing little to the Washington Nationals on the field right now. The veteran utilityman knows his batting average is down to a paltry .186, he doesn”t have an extra-base hit since May 8 and he hasn”t driven in a run since May 2.

And Fick knows he has been given a free pass by the Nationals because baseball really doesn”t matter to him right now, not with his mother dying of lung cancer.

But the last thing the 33-year-old is looking for is sympathy.

It”s tough to deal with when you”re struggling on the field and off it at the same time, he said before last night”s game against the Baltimore Orioles. But I can”t make any excuses. I”m not playing very good.

Gloria Fick, 75, was supposed to die more than a year ago. She refused chemotherapy and surgery and instead chose to let the cancer take its own course. She can”t get out of bed, can”t eat much and can barely speak, but she continues to hang on at her home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., supported by her eight children.

Robert Fick, the youngest sibling in the family, has made several quick trips home when given the opportunity. He spent Monday (an off day for the Nationals) at her side for what he feared would be the last time.

She might only have a week left, he said.

The Nationals have done what they can to support Fick during his tough season. His lack of production might have gotten him released by other clubs, but manager Manny Acta has been understanding and knows the situation is affecting him.

It has to, regardless if he wants to deny it or not, Acta said. It”s his mother. It”s tough. And coming off the bench is tough enough because you”re not sharp and you”re not getting enough at-bats and you”re having things to think about that are more important than baseball. It”s not easy, but we”re trying the best we can to give him some at-bats and see if we can work him out in there and get him sharp.

Fick is grateful for all the support. His locker on the road is near Chad Cordero, who recently lost his grandmother to cancer. Like Cordero, he may have to take bereavement leave from the team soon, but for now there”s no place he would rather be than on the baseball diamond.

It”s kind of like a relief, he said. This is where I get a break from it all.

Fick, long regarded as one the biggest jokesters in baseball, admits he has changed some from the experience.

Death teaches you things, he said. I”ll come out of this a lot stronger, for sure. You just better live life the best you can because you never know what can happen to you the next day or down the road. It”s been a lesson I”ve learned, that”s for sure.

Extra bases

Right-hander Shawn Hill will start throwing tomorrow for the first time since having his injured right elbow and left shoulder looked at during a follow-up exam. Hill, who went on the disabled list around the same time as rotation mates John Patterson, Jason Bergmann and Jerome Williams, lags behind them in his rehabilitation. All three of those starters will pitch in the minor leagues tomorrow. …

The Nationals signed five more draft picks yesterday, including second-rounder Jordan Zimmermann (a right-hander from Wisconsin-Stevens Point) and eighth rounder Adrian Alaniz (a college right-hander from Texas). They have yet to begin serious discussions with their top three picks: left-hander Ross Detwiler (selected sixth overall), left-hander Josh Smoker (31st) and outfielder Michael Burgess (49th).

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