- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2007

Lenny Harris didn’t ask why he was being summoned to RFK Stadium on Friday. That didn’t mean he didn’t have a few worries when he stepped into the Washington Nationals’ offices.

“I see a bunch of guys in suits, and I’m getting real nervous,” Harris said. “I didn’t know what was really going on around here. Next thing you know, I’m in an interview for a job.”

Harris apparently aced it and was named the Nationals’ interim hitting coach after Mitchell Page took a leave of absence. And while it is unwise to read to much into Friday’s game a six-run, 15-hit outburst for Washington Harris still has plenty to offer the club.

The 42-year-old is the majors’ career leader in pinch-hits with 212, and the latter years of his 18-year career were spent primarily in that role.

“He’ll be able to share with his guys how he was able to prepare,” manager Manny Acta said. “He’s already talked to some of those guys how when he went five days without an at-bat, five days later he was ready for the at-bat.”

Instilling that quality could be a priority for Harris, who recalled believing he would have a chance to make a difference in a critical situation once each game.

“You have to have your game plan set, and I try to tell them that because that was pretty much my plan when I pinch-hit,” Harris said. “I’m telling these guys you get four at-bats. I had one bullet when I came out there.”

While Acta conceded starter Shawn Hill likely would wind up on the disabled list, the right-hander was optimistic about tomorrow’s impending MRI exam on his elbow.

“We’re pretty sure what it is,” said Hill, who tossed five no-hit innings Friday before leaving with elbow discomfort. “We think it’s scar tissue, but we don’t know that. It’s more just being patient and letting it calm down.”

Acta said no decision would be made about Hill’s status until after the MRI.

Who wants to be a starter?

Hill’s injury leaves an opening in the rotation for Wednesday’s game against Atlanta. Acta indicated a decision would be made after last night’s game but had some fun when pressed about the options at his disposal.

“The other 11 guys on this staff, plus a few more at Triple-A,” Acta said coyly. “You want me to narrow it down to two? You need to call home, 50-50?”

Two players apparently not under consideration were Class AA pitchers Collin Balester and left hander Michael Hinckley. General manager Jim Bowden said neither prospect would be pressed into major league duty.

“I’d hate to rush ; he’s kind of like Balester and has turned the corner and made great progress,” Bowden said. “I really don’t want to interfere with that great progress Mike’s made this year for the short term.”

Extra bases

First baseman Dmitri Young (sore left Achilles tendon) was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game. Acta said Young’s injury was not fully healed but that the veteran was available to pinch-hit.

Outfielder Alex Escobar is with the Nationals during the homestand while continuing to rehabilitate his separated right shoulder. Acta said Escobar, who is throwing at about 90 feet and had been acting as a designated hitter in extended spring training, could return from the disabled list as early as the first week of June.

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