- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2008

Felipe Lopez wasn’t upset Friday that his name was being thrown around in trade rumors. The Washington Nationals infielder was far more miffed at the fact he wasn’t in the starting lineup for the fourth time in five games.

“Believe me, it’s funny that people are interested. It explains a lot about what’s been going on the past three days or whatever,” he said. “There’s no communication. I find out things over the media. Whatever.”

A report on FoxSports.com on Friday said the Nationals and Orioles have had “substantive conversations” about a trade involving Lopez, who could fill Baltimore’s hole at shortstop. Baseball sources confirmed the two teams have talked on and off since spring training, but there remains a sticking point: How much of Lopez’s salary is Washington willing to pick up?

The 28-year-old infielder is owed about $2.5 million of his $4.9 million salary, and the Orioles would ask the Nationals to pick up a sizeable portion of that for the deal to be finalized.

Informed before Friday’s game about the trade rumor, Lopez said he “wouldn’t care at all” if he was dealt. His bigger issue was the fact he was taken out of the lineup this week after hitting .359 over an 11-game stretch without an explanation.

“Of course I’m a little bothered,” he said. “Coming off a great road trip, I went up like 30 points, playing great, and then to come here and all of a sudden just not play, it’s kind of like: ‘What the [heck’s] going on?’ If you want to send a message, that’s where the lack of communication comes from. That’s what I’m talking about. If something’s bothering you, then say it. This is like a kid, treating me like a kid, or like punishment or something for I don’t know what.”

Willie Harris started his third straight game Friday night, though Nationals manager Manny Acta said the utilityman is not his new second baseman. Told about Lopez’s frustration with the lack of communication, Acta responded succinctly.

“I think I talked to him enough from last year about everything that we expect out of him,” he said.

Hill heading home

Injured right-hander Shawn Hill will return to his home in Viera, Fla., on Monday to begin his recovery from a strained forearm that has landed him on the disabled list for the fifth time in four years.

Doctors told Hill, who had pitched in pain all season, to shut himself down and refrain from any throwing for an indeterminate period of time.

“At this point, I honestly think this is what it needs,” he said. “I haven’t had a good period of rest for a couple of years now.”

The Nationals won’t set any kind of timetable for Hill’s return. Doctors have concluded there is no structural damage to his throwing arm, but until the pain subsides, he won’t pick up a ball. That, Hill said, could happen two weeks or two years from now.

“We’re trying to figure it out as it goes,” he said. “There’s no set timetable.”



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