- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2009

Alberto Gonzalez has never really been considered more than a potential utilityman at the major league level. A slick-fielding shortstop who can hold his own at the other infield positions, he has always seemed destined to make his living on the bench.

The Washington Nationals, though, might have to reconsider conventional wisdom in this case. Since returning to the big leagues three weeks ago, Gonzalez has looked like anything but a backup.

In 14 games since his recall from Class AAA Syracuse, the 26-year-old is batting .412 with seven RBI. So manager Manny Acta felt it necessary to squeeze this hot hitter into his lineup the past two days, starting Gonzalez at second base over regular Anderson Hernandez.

“Everything is OK with Anderson. Everything is just very good with Alberto right now,” Acta said. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s in the middle of everything for us.”

Gonzalez first came up in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system as a second baseman, but he primarily has been a shortstop for several years. He admitted he feels “more comfortable at shortstop” but has embraced the idea of spending time at second base.

“It feels a little weird because I’ve been playing shortstop,” he said through an interpreter. “But it’s a groundball anywhere.”

Hanrahan’s woes continue

Every time it looks like Joel Hanrahan has solved his problems on the mound, the Nationals reliever seems to suffer through another meltdown like he did over the weekend.

Washington’s one-time closer blew his team’s lead Saturday night, then dug his team into an even bigger hole Sunday pitching in mop-up time in the ninth. The Blue Jays rapped out four straight two-out hits to add three insurance runs.

“Instead of trying to make a decent pitch, I was trying to make a perfect pitch,” Hanrahan said. “And when you fall behind guys, bad things are going to happen.”

Hanrahan has now been scored upon, blown a save or taken the loss in four of his past six outings. His ERA is up to 6.61.

“He just hasn’t been able to make pitches when he’s had to,” Acta said. “Two outs, nobody on [Sunday] and he just puts guys on base and pitches behind in the count. You just can’t do that up here.”

Clippard saying put

A list of transactions on Minor League Baseball’s Web site showed the Nationals recalling right-hander Tyler Clippard from Syracuse on Sunday.

That report, a team official said, was erroneous. Clippard, who has an 0.96 ERA, will remain with the Chiefs for the time being.

Why the mix-up? The Nationals were prepared to call up Clippard if reliever Jesus Colome’s quadriceps strain had been severe enough to require time on the disabled list. Colome, though, reported no problems during a Sunday morning bullpen session in front of Acta, pitching coach Steve McCatty and acting general manager Mike Rizzo, so he was cleared to pitch.

The right-hander wound up retiring the side in the sixth Sunday, his third scoreless appearance in as many days.

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