- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 12, 2008

Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said the organization has not committed any wrongdoing in signing players from the Dominican Republic, denying a report that he and special assistant Jose Rijo are being investigated for their roles in a growing financial scandal in the country.

ESPN.com reported Friday that Bowden and Rijo are being investigated by Major League Baseball and federal authorities for their roles in the scandal, which involves skimming money slotted for Dominican prospects.

Bowden said he met face to face with FBI investigators, but he said the questions did not revolve around Rijo or him. He added he has no knowledge of any wrongdoing in the Nationals organization.

“Myself, the entire Nationals organization, and I would assume all 29 [other] clubs are going to cooperate fully with the investigation that’s going on,” he said.

According to ESPN.com, Bowden is the highest-ranking official known to be under investigation. The story said investigators have been speaking to officials from around the game, but Bowden and Rijo were being specifically investigated, though it did not elaborate on what their role in the scandal might have been.

Asked whether he had knowledge of any money skimming in the Nationals organization, Bowden said “absolutely not.”

Bernadina sent down

Ten games into a call-up in which he consistently struggled to hit major league pitching, center fielder Roger Bernadina is on his way back to the minor leagues. The Nationals optioned Bernadina to Class AAA Columbus on Friday afternoon, recalling outfielder Ryan Langerhans to take his place.

Bernadina, who was called up from Class AA Harrisburg on June 28 after the Nationals put Lastings Milledge on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin injury, was hitting .125 and had been caught stealing twice. The team had envisioned him leading off and starting in center field while he was in the majors, but he was dropped to eighth in the lineup after six games.

Manager Manny Acta said Langerhans, who has been called up two other times this season, will see some time in center field, but added Willie Harris “has the upper hand” in starting.

Pena battling shoulder problem

Left fielder Wily Mo Pena, who is hitting just .209 and had been reduced to a bench role until Elijah Dukes got hurt, has dealt with a nagging left shoulder injury and could have tests done over the All-Star break, Acta said.

“I don’t think he will use that or we will use that as an excuse,” Acta said.

Asked about the possibility of having tests done on his shoulder, Pena only said, “I’m going home during the break,” and would not expand further.

Orr to Olympics?

If infielder Pete Orr isn’t on the Nationals’ major league roster by the end of the month, at least there’s a silver (or maybe gold) lining: He would head to the Olympics.

The 29-year-old was named to the Canadian Olympic team on Thursday, and could represent his country in Beijing four years after helping Team Canada finish fourth in its first Olympic baseball appearance in Athens.

But there’s a catch: Orr can’t be on a major league roster when Baseball Canada finalizes its roster on Aug. 1. So his ability to represent the country hinges on whether the Nationals have sent him back to Class AAA Columbus by then.

“Right now it’s totally out of my hands,” Orr said. “I’m not going to think about it. I can’t control any of it, so I’m going to try to do the best I can for the Nationals.”

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