- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO | Manny Acta has watched Daniel Cabrera get beaten by giving up hits, by issuing walks and by beating up himself. So after seven ragged outings, the Washington Nationals’ manager decided it was time to sit the erratic right-hander down for a long discussion about his status within the organization.

Acta summoned Cabrera into his office at AT&T Park on Tuesday afternoon, joined by pitching coach Randy St. Claire and backup catcher Wil Nieves, and spent more than 30 minutes telling the pitcher what he must do to get back on track and stay in the rotation.

“I thought it was time for us to get together with him and talk to him about mechanics and the mental part of the game and certain things we’re trying to get him to do,” said Acta, who plans to keep Cabrera in the rotation for now. “The season’s young. We’ve got a lot of months left to play, and we feel he can be doing better. He understood everything. It was a nice meeting with him.”

The gathering took place in the wake of Cabrera’s latest debacle: a 4 2/3-inning start Monday night in which he allowed eight hits and walked six (including four in a row in the fifth inning). Afterward, Cabrera (0-4 with a 4.98 ERA and 28 walks in 34 1/3 innings) stormed out of the clubhouse and refused to speak to reporters.

Among the changes Acta and St. Claire want Cabrera to try are some mechanical tweaks when he’s pitching out of the stretch. They also want the 27-year-old to learn how to better control his emotions and not let defensive mistakes behind him get to him.

“The sooner he understands that, the better he’s going to be,” Acta said.

Milledge out

Class AAA Syracuse outfielder Lastings Milledge will have surgery Wednesday to repair a broken right ring finger and will miss six to eight weeks.

Milledge, who hurt himself trying to bunt in a minor league game Monday, was examined by a hand specialist in Baltimore who determined the outfielder needed to have a pin placed in his finger. Once he recovers, he’ll begin to rehab at the Nationals’ spring training complex in Viera, Fla.

Though the injury is a setback to Milledge, who was trying to make it back to Washington after getting demoted one week into the season, Acta said the young outfielder still could return to the big leagues this year.

“This is something you can’t control,” the manager said. “But he’s so young and he’s talented. We’re still very high on the guy, and we think he’s going to be a very good player up here.”

Extra bases

Jesus Flores was out of the lineup for the third straight game, but the catcher (who bruised his right shoulder) is expected to start in Wednesday’s series finale.

“I mean, I could play today,” Flores said Tuesday. “But we don’t want to take the risk that something else could make it worse.” …

Elijah Dukes was a late scratch from the Nationals’ starting lineup after reporting to AT&T Park feeling ill. Willie Harris started in center field.

• Mark Zuckerman can be reached at mzuckerman@washingtontimes.com.

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