- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

MILWAUKEE | The way the Washington Nationals handled their first-base situation last week, stocking the position with whatever remnants they have on their roster, it appears the solution for the rest of this year won’t be a clean one.

Manager Manny Acta has started Ronnie Belliard, a middle infielder, at first in four of the team’s last six games, including Saturday night against the Milwaukee Brewers. Kory Casto - a third baseman and left fielder - started the other two games. Outfielder Ryan Langerhans also has seen some time there.

When - or if - first baseman Dmitri Young returns this season from troubles with his diabetes, the Nationals will have an easier choice. But until then, it appears Acta will insert the player who fits the best that night.

In other words, it’s not exactly a platoon between the left-handed Casto and the right-handed Belliard.

“We’re just trying to do some matchups, whoever we feel is going to give us the best chance with the pitcher out there,” Acta said.

Acta considers Langerhans a defensive replacement, not a starting option, right now.

Young, who has remained on the disabled list since July 18 after complaining of blurry vision in Atlanta, returned to the District to meet with doctors and get his diabetes under control. From there, general manager Jim Bowden said, Young would head to the team’s Gulf Coast League affiliate in Viera, Fla., until he gets in playing shape.

But his diabetes has delayed Young’s arrival in Florida.

Acta said Saturday he didn’t have an update on the first baseman’s condition.

Boone starts rehab

Third baseman Aaron Boone, who has been out since before the All-Star break with a strained left calf, will start a rehab assignment with the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate Sunday.

He was originally scheduled to start rehab Saturday until rain postponed the GCL Nationals’ game.

Boone is expected to head to Class AAA Columbus on Monday or Tuesday, though Acta still did not have a date he expects Boone to rejoin the team.

Milledge stays strong

Center fielder Lastings Milledge entered Saturday’s game on a nine-game hitting streak, his longest since July 2007. And in that span, Milledge has provided glimpses of the player Washington hoped it was getting when it sent Ryan Church and Brian Schneider to the Mets last winter.

He is hitting .389 in the Nationals’ last nine games with four home runs, eight RBI and seven runs.

Occasionally exploited by pitchers for being overly aggressive early in the season, Milledge is benefiting from a more patient approach at the plate.

“Even if you get ahead in the count, there’s no guarantees you’re going to get your pitch,” Milledge said. “The way they’ve been pitching me has been kind of funny. It hasn’t been predictable. You have to keyhole them, sit on your pitch, and if you get it, get it. But if not, you tip your cap to them and wait until next time.”

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