- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

ATLANTA — Robert Fick walked through the Washington Nationals clubhouse before last night’s game at Turner Field, receiving handshakes and hugs from teammates and others glad to see him back.

Never one for sentimentality, though, the veteran utilityman — back from bereavement leave after the death of his mother — couldn’t wait for things to get back to normal so he could start cracking jokes with anyone in sight.

“This is where I need to be,” Fick said. “Like I said before, this is where I get my peace, talking [trash] to you guys and to all my teammates.”

Though Fick rejoined the Nationals yesterday, he won’t be back in uniform until tonight. Manager Manny Acta said he wanted the 33-year-old to have a chance to settle back in before playing again.

The extra day gave also gave the club a little more time to consider a corresponding roster move, which came following last night”s 6-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Outfielder Brandon Watson was optioned back to Class AAA Columbus five days after getting called up.

Consumed with thoughts of his mother, Gloria, who battled lung cancer for more than a year, Fick struggled during the season’s first 2½ months. But he went on a bit of a hot streak just before leaving the club, picking up four hits in three days to raise his average to .217.

The Nationals are hoping he can pick up where he left off, especially now that Cristian Guzman’s season-ending thumb injury has forced Ronnie Belliard into the starting lineup. Fick now becomes Acta’s top bat off the bench.

“We need him, big time,” Acta said.

With his mind clear at last, Fick feels like he can return to the form he has displayed throughout a productive, 10-year career.

“I’m glad to be back,” he said. “I feel like I can focus a little bit more now. I don’t have to worry about her suffering anymore. Sure, I miss her more than anything, but she’s not in pain anymore, so that’s really all that matters to me.”

Watson bummed

Watson was disappointed to learn he was being sent back to the minors after playing fairly well in his brief stint with the Nationals.

“It”s not something that I”m excited about,” he said. “I did all I could while I was here, and now I”ll go back down there and keep playing.”

Watson, who set an International League record by hitting in 43 straight games, was 5-for-18 with two runs and two RBI in five games for Washington. His production over the last week led some to believe the Nationals might keep him and instead cut fellow outfielder Nook Logan (who is hitting just .212 in 40 games).

Ultimately, though, Logan was kept because he was out of minor league options and could be lost on waivers if let go.

“It was difficult, especially for the kid, because he came up here and played five good games for us,” Acta said. “But that”s part of the game. The other outfielders are out of options, which works against you a lot of times in that situation.”

Extra bases

Injured reliever Jesus Colome had successful surgery to remove an infected cyst on his right buttock. There is no timetable for his return. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list. …

The Nationals traded minor league reliever Jermaine Van Buren to the Oakland Athletics for a player to be named. The right-hander was 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 26 games.

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