- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

Yesterday was a pretty nice day for the Washington Nationals’ selections in winter’s Rule 5 draft.

Catcher Jesus Flores had a pair of singles and drove in two runs in the team’s 6-4 victory. Earlier in the day — minutes after Ryan Zimmerman’s home run ended a 7-3 contest at 1:42 a.m. — manager Manny Acta announced Levale Speigner would make his first career start Wednesday against Atlanta.

“It is exciting that they put enough stock in me to think I can handle that situation,” Speigner said. “As far as how I am trying to handle it — going in not too pumped up. I guess not playing on emotion. Usually when I pitch on emotion it hasn’t been very good.”

Speigner will take Shawn Hill’s place in the rotation.

Hill, who leads the team in wins, strikeouts, ERA and innings pitched, left his start Friday with elbow soreness.

The 26-year old Speigner was a 14th-round pick in the 2003 draft by Minnesota. He made 140 appearances in the Twins organization, including 25 starts but none since 2005.

This season he is 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA in 12 appearances. He allowed two runs on five hits in 12/3 innings Saturday night. It had been seven days since his previous appearance, when he issued three bases-loaded walks in an inning of work against the Cubs.

“We did a few things mechanically, but it was more mental than anything,” Speigner said. “We’re still fine-tuning mechanics here and there. [Saturday] night I wanted to challenge hitters and not fall into the same thing I did at Wrigley and try to hit corners or nibble. I just nibbled too much, tried to be too fine.”

Acta said Speigner earned the start in part because Joel Hanrahan, who has a 1.69 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 211/3 innings for Class AAA Columbus, is out with a strained right hamstring and the team won’t have to make a roster move when Chad Cordero rejoins the team today.

Speigner’s longest outing of the season was three innings April 19 against Philadelphia.

“This is not a permanent move. Obviously we’re going to give him a shot. We’re going to put him in the rotation, and it kind of makes sense for us,” Acta said. “He’s already been stretched out to over 40 pitches earlier in the year. We are looking for probably four or five innings.”

Who’s on first?

Regular first baseman Dmitri Young continues to be kept out of the starting lineup because of a sore left Achilles tendon. Young, who is 2-for-17 in May, last started a week ago.

“I tweaked it during the last homestand and tried playing on it,” Young said. “Manny knows there is a slight limp, and I need to take some time off for it to heal.”

Young said it is a chronic problem, but he would need only a couple more days before returning to the starting lineup. He has been available to pinch hit, and he delivered a single in the ninth inning before Zimmerman’s walk-off shot.

Acta said he will continue to platoon Robert Fick and Ronnie Belliard in Young’s place. Belliard made his first career start there Saturday with lefty Scott Olsen on the mound.

“The fact [Young] hadn’t been out there in a few days and his willingness — I mean this guy, I was looking around [and] he was already by me with a helmet ready to hit,” Acta said. “That is his second very important pinch hit in the last week or so.”

Extra bases

Acta said it bothers Nook Logan to swing from the left side, so Ryan Langerhans will be in center field in the coming days with a right-handed pitcher on the mound. …

Players on both teams wore pink wristbands and ribbon decals on their uniforms to support breast cancer awareness. Nine Nationals players used pink bats that will be autographed and auctioned off to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Want more Nats? Check out Nats Home Plate.

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