- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

It’s unlikely anyone will do anything to denote the concrete step next to the first row of Section 533 at RFK Stadium where Ryan Zimmerman’s third-inning home run landed yesterday. This being the final year of baseball at RFK, there’s no real reason to mark the spot.

But if nothing else, the Washington Nationals third baseman now can utter his name alongside the greatest slugger in Washington Senators history: Frank Howard, whose comparable homers into the highest level of the RFK upper deck have been immortalized in white paint.

Zimmerman’s blast off San Diego Padres left-hander David Wells sailed deep down the left-field line, over the maroon-colored seats in the 400 level and careened off the stairs next to the first row of yellow seats in Section 533. He’s the first player to reach the yellow seats since baseball returned to the District, though his blast might have been bested by one hit by Barry Bonds in 2005 that landed in Section 468 to straightaway right field.

Not that anyone was downplaying Zimmerman’s shot.

“I was impressed because I thought that it was barely going to go into the upper deck, and it got all the way to that entrance,” manager Manny Acta said. “I was very impressed, regardless if it was down the line.”

Zimmerman, who now leads the club with eight homers and 30 RBI, never even saw it.

“No, but they told me where it went,” he said. “That’s pretty far up there, I guess.”

Speigner’s future?

Rookie right-hander Levale Speigner’s future in the Nationals’ rotation (and perhaps on the roster) again is in jeopardy following Saturday night’s subpar performance.

Speigner was roughed up for six runs in the first inning, though he wasn’t helped by three defensive miscues behind him. In four starts since being promoted from the bullpen, the 26-year-old has a 14.14 ERA.

Speigner’s next turn in the rotation comes Friday in Minnesota, but Acta said he won’t necessarily pitch that night.

“It’s still under consideration,” Acta said. “We have to get together with [general manager] Jim [Bowden] and see what’s out there.”

The logical choice to replace Speigner remains Joel Hanrahan. But the right-hander struggled Saturday night for Class AAA Columbus, giving up five runs (three earned) while walking four and surrendering three homers in only 32/3 innings.

Because Speigner was selected in the Rule 5 draft, he can’t be sent to the minors without being offered back to his original club (the Twins) or being exposed to waivers. But Acta, who said he views Speigner ultimately as a middle reliever, admitted the club may have to give up on the rookie.

“What we’ll look at is the future, how we envision him,” Acta said.

Extra bases

Injured right-hander John Patterson threw 40 pitches (including breaking balls for the first time) during an 11-minute bullpen session before yesterday’s game, the next step in his rehabilitation from arm trouble. Patterson will throw once more in the bullpen Wednesday, then pitch in a simulated game Sunday at Class A Potomac before going on an official rehab assignment. …

The Nationals agreed to terms on a professional contract with 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Luis Castillo. A 6-foot-1, 175-pound switch-hitter, Castillo was signed after working out for officials at the club’s San Cristobal facility.

Want more Nats? Check out Nats Home Plate.

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