- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Washington Nationals claimed right-hander Enrique Gonzalez off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday, adding another young pitcher to the mix for next year’s rotation.

Gonzalez, 25, was 8-10 with a 5.15 ERA for Class AAA Tucson this season, but he was the Diamondbacks’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2004 and was on a steady progression toward becoming a successful big leaguer.

Given a chance to win a spot in the Arizona rotation this spring, though, he struggled and never seemed to recover. He made one appearance for the Diamondbacks, allowing three runs in two innings, then was designated for assignment last week after the club signed veteran reliever Bob Wickman.

On the advice of assistant general manager Mike Rizzo, who used to be Arizona’s scouting director, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden put in a claim for Gonzalez. He’s now on their 40-man roster but won’t pitch for them this season.

“I was excited when Jim called and we noticed he was on waivers,” Rizzo said.

The 5-foot-11 Venezuelan native throws in the low 90s and relies on command, which seemed to elude him the last two seasons while he shuttled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen.

“He still has a really good arm,” Rizzo said. “Sometimes when you shuffle between starting and relieving, you don’t really have a role, you don’t have a niche, you don’t have the consistency.”

Manager Manny Acta said Gonzalez will be given a chance to compete for a rotation spot next spring but ultimately might make the team as a long reliever.

Jimenez gets a shot

D’Angelo Jimenez was in the Nationals’ lineup for the third straight game last night, the first time all season the veteran infielder has been given regular playing time.

Jimenez, who started at shortstop in place of struggling Felipe Lopez, has been one of the majors’ least productive bench players but actually has thrived when in the lineup. The 29-year-old has recorded at least one hit in each of his 13 starts, and his batting average when playing in the field is .333. As a pinch-hitter, he’s hitting .061.

Jimenez said he feels much more comfortable at the plate when he’s in the lineup than when he’s coming off the bench cold.

“Yes, of course,” he said. “Because you’re seeing pitchers more than one time.”

That said, Jimenez’s future is likely as a bench player, not as a starter.

Said Acta: “To me that’s going to be his role in the future.”

Young still out

Dmitri Young was out of the lineup for the second straight day, still feeling the effects of the batted ball he took off his head Saturday night.

Young, who has been suffering from headaches and a stiff neck, could return tonight.

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