- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

MILWAUKEE — Throughout Nook Logan’s stint on the disabled list, Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta insisted the center fielder would regain his everyday job once he returned.

But as Acta pointed out yesterday, “Don’t forget that when we said that Nook was going to be our center fielder here, we didn’t have [Ryan] Langerhans here.”

So when Acta filled out his lineup card for yesterday’s series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers, he wrote in Langerhans’ name in center field, not Logan’s.

That could become more of a regular occurrence. Logan is 0-for-6 since coming off the DL, and Langerhans perhaps is showing signs of breaking out of his early-season slump (even though he’s 2-for-9 since being acquired from the Oakland Athletics).

“He’s on the team,” Acta said. “He’s going to play. We’re going to have to throw him out there and give him some at-bats and see what we got.”

Langerhans started yesterday against Brewers right-hander Claudio Vargas, and that could tip off Acta’s intentions. The left-handed-hitting Langerhans could get starts against right-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, Logan, who hits better from the right side of the plate than the left, could be used against lefties.

Both players are superior defensive outfielders, so there isn’t much drop-off when one starts over the other. The task now facing Acta is how to divvy up the playing time.

“I can’t tell you an exact number, but we are going to make sure that we’re going to give [Langerhans] some more at-bats,” he said.

Belliard tries first

With Cristian Guzman back from the DL and Felipe Lopez back at second base, Ronnie Belliard is out of a regular job. The veteran infielder, though, has shown enough versatility to warrant occasional playing time as a backup second baseman, shortstop and third baseman.

Yesterday Belliard added another position to his resume: He played two innings at first base for the first time in his nine-year career as part of a double-switch.

The 32-year-old, who has played 994 of his 1,039 major league games at second base, started taking grounders at first last week. Not that the practice was going to do that much for him at this stage.

“It was a little bit late for the first time to do anything over there,” he said. “But I did it today to help the team.”

Belliard even made a nifty scoop of Lopez’s one-hop throw to get Damian Miller in the seventh inning. The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder stretched as far as his body would allow to make the grab.

“The ball caught me,” he said. “I didn’t catch the ball.”

Extra bases

John Patterson had his injured right elbow examined by team doctor Ben Shaffer in the District, and Shaffer’s findings concurred with the original diagnosis: The right-hander has no structural damage, but he does have inflammation and some nerve irritation. He’ll undergo further tests.

Patterson, who had surgery last summer to repair a damaged nerve in his elbow, is expected to begin throwing again next week and return in early June. …

Right-hander Jerome Williams, on the DL with a sprained left ankle, will make a rehab start tonight for Class AAA Columbus. That would leave him on schedule to start for the Nationals on Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves at RFK Stadium, filling Patterson’s spot in the rotation.

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