- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2008

Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said the team sent a letter to commissioner Bud Selig’s office asking for a review of umpire Angel Hernandez’s two balk calls on Odalis Perez during Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Both balks came in the third inning of Tuesday’s game, and Perez erupted after the second one. He was ejected from the game and had to be restrained at separate times by manager Manny Acta and pitching coach Randy St. Claire.

“I’ve looked at the video many times, and I just don’t think it’s a balk,” Bowden said. “I think it’s the same move he always uses, and it’s never called a balk.”

Perez had not been called for a balk this season, but Tuesday marked the fourth time Hernandez’s crew had cited him, including three in the last five years.

Hernandez said Perez stepped toward home before making a pickoff move to first base twice in three batters, and the calls helped Arizona score its first run of the game.

After the game, Perez berated Hernandez in a profanity-tinged tirade, calling him an “idiot” and suggesting Hernandez has a vendetta against him.

“I’m a professional. I want to be there as long as I can because I don’t want to see my teammates in the bullpen to go out there and throw so many pitches or throw so many innings,” Perez said. “I hate that, and I know I’m going to get fined, but I don’t care.”

Bowden said the Nationals would not appeal any disciplinary action Major League Baseball hands down, although Perez could appeal a ruling himself.

“I think it’s a judgment call,” Bowden said of how the league would discipline Perez. “I respect the umpire’s opinion in doing his job. I think his particular opinion on this particular balk is incorrect. If it’s the same move he’s using with every other umpiring crew and it’s not being called a balk, then we should review it.”

Draft pick at standoff

Negotiations between the Nationals and fifth-round draft pick Adrian Nieto have stalled, and according to a source familiar with the negotiations, the two sides haven’t spoken in two weeks.

The switch-hitting catcher was rated by some as the second-best high school catcher in the draft, but concerns about his right elbow and his signability dropped him to the fifth round.

Nieto seeks a signing bonus similar to that of a second-round pick, which would be upward of $350,000, while the Nationals have offered only slot money - in Nieto’s case, roughly $185,000.

The source said the Nationals are calling themselves a “slot team” - in other words, a team that won’t pay above slot value for its draft picks. Washington paid $1.8 million to its 2007 sixth-round pick, high school left-hander Jack McGeary.

Washington has until Aug. 15 to sign its top five picks, none of which are in the fold yet.

Though Bowden declined to comment on specific negotiations, he said “the market is pretty clear” and added “as soon as they want to pick up the phone and agree, it’s done. It’s easy.

“They clearly know we’re being very fair on negotiations based on the marketplace, and we’re hoping our players want to play.”

Hill’s return uncertain

Bowden said he didn’t know whether right-hander Shawn Hill, who has battled forearm soreness all season and has been on the disabled list since June 26, would pitch again this season.

“We want to get him healthy,” Bowden said. “We’re working on it.”



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