- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2007

MIAMI — Three Washington Nationals regulars — Austin Kearns, Dmitri Young and Felipe Lopez — were given yesterday’s game off, and though none specifically asked for a breather, manager Manny Acta expressed concern about his players wearing down mentally during the season’s final month.

Acta said a few of his players have looked tired in recent days. Though he’s watching for that and making sure to give someone a day off when needed, he doesn’t understand why a player wouldn’t want to play every day.

“It’s sad that I do have to be looking for that, but I think everybody should be ready to play here,” Acta said before yesterday’s game against the Florida Marlins. “Cal Ripken played for over 2,000 games in a row. [Miguel] Tejada played for over 1,000 games in a row. You should be able to prepare yourself to play 200 games, because what if we’re contending next year for a playoff spot and the World Series and all that? Are you going to be having to rest guys late in the season?”

Acta noted that he hasn’t had a problem this season with players asking out of the lineup, but he worries about a culture developing in the game in which few players even think about playing all 162 games a year.

Ryan Zimmerman is the only Nationals player to start all 146 games this season. Kearns, who has a swollen left elbow after getting hit by a pitch Tuesday night, missed only his second game yesterday. Everyone else has missed at least eight games.

“It’s easier said than done,” Acta said. “I’m the one sitting here saying it, but they’re the ones who have to be out there running all over the place and flying and the mental part of it all. But I just think that this is your job. And a big part of this job is not just playing, but preparing yourself to play.”

Maxwell stays on bench

One day after hitting a grand slam for his first big league hit, Justin Maxwell was back on the bench. He’ll probably stay there.

Acta said he would like to give the 23-year-old outfielder one or two chances to start before the end of the season, but it could be difficult to make that happen. Acta doesn’t want to throw the rookie into a situation he’s not ready for, especially against contending opponents.

“We just have to be careful and match him up the best way possible,” the manager said. “We have to be very careful, because after today we’re going to be playing teams that are fighting for playoff spots. You don’t want to be experimenting when teams are really playing for something.”

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