- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MIAMI | Gustavo Chacin, the former 13-game winner the Washington Nationals signed to a minor league deal this spring, has been released by the team, acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday.

The left-hander signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.

Washington signed Chacin in hopes he could compete for a spot in the rotation and regain the form that helped him go 25-15 in 3 1/2 seasons with Toronto. But Chacin had shoulder surgery in August 2007 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since then.

The Nationals reassigned him to their minor league camp March 19 but eventually decided they couldn’t deprive one of their young pitchers of starts at Class AAA Syracuse long enough to see whether Chacin could regain his form.

“We signed him on the hope that his velocity would come back to where it was when he was a 13-game winner,” Rizzo said. “He was in the low 80s, and we just didn’t have enough room for him when we sent down [Jason] Bergmann and [Garrett] Mock, and we have Colome. We just didn’t have room for him in our five starters [at Syracuse]. We didn’t have time to wait for the velocity to get back, be it taking maybe a month or two.”

Zimmermann on track

Rizzo said Jordan Zimmermann will be the Opening Day starter for Syracuse on Thursday, putting him on a five-day rest cycle that will allow him to make his major league debut April 19 at home against the Marlins. Zimmermann won’t be on a pitch count for his first start in Syracuse, although he probably be limited to 105 pitches or so with the Nationals.

Once Zimmermann is called up, Rizzo said, Mike O’Connor will move from Class AA Harrisburg to Syracuse to take the vacant spot in the rotation.

Young still recovering

First baseman Dmitri Young is still at the Nationals’ extended spring training camp in Viera, Fla., taking ground balls and batting practice. His back stiffness is still preventing him from playing in games, however, and Rizzo said Young won’t go on a rehab assignment until he shows he can play back-to-back games on offense and defense.

“He needs to be able to do all the agility moves that it takes to play first base,” Rizzo said. “It’s being able to take the grind of multiple days of playing a nine-inning game on your feet, on your back, on your hip.”

There’s still no timetable for when Young will play in a game, nor a guarantee he will wind up in the major leagues at all. The key to any of that becoming a possibility, Rizzo said, is Young showing he can be more than a pinch hitter.

“When we’re satisfied with that, we’ll send him on his rehab, and the clock will start,” Rizzo said.

• Ben Goessling can be reached at bgoessling@washingtontimes.com.

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