- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Washington Nationals made a pair of roster moves Friday, one out of necessity to keep a healthy complement of catchers on the team and another in the ongoing search to find a consistent bullpen.

Catcher Jesus Flores, who has been out since May 10 with a strained right shoulder, was finally put on the disabled list. The team called up catcher Josh Bard from Class AAA Syracuse the day before a Saturday doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies; he and Wil Nieves will split time until Flores returns. Manager Manny Acta said Flores shouldn’t miss much more than the 15 days he is required to be on the DL.

The other move prolonged what is amounting to an open call for reliable relievers. Logan Kensing, who was acquired in an April 29 trade with the Florida Marlins, was designated for assignment, with the Nationals calling up Jesus Colome to take his place. The Marlins had designated Kensing for assignment just before trading him, and Acta said he hopes the Nationals can get him through waivers to keep him in their system.

“Things just didn’t work out,” Acta said. “He was pitching behind in the count the whole time, and he was working through some mechanical issues. Right now, with the state of our bullpen, he understands that we just can’t be hiding anybody right now. He took it very well, and he wants to stay here.”

Whatever benefit familiarity had in keeping Colome (who could have elected free agency) and possibly Kensing in the system, it didn’t help Mike Hinckley. The left-hander, who was designated for assignment to make room for Ron Villone last week, has elected for free agency, the team said.

Hinckley was drafted by the Expos in 2001 and came to the Nationals’ first camp as the team’s top pitching prospect. He finally made a major league team out of spring training this year, partially on the heels of 13 2/3 scoreless innings in a September call-up last year. But he gave up five runs and walked 11 in 9 2/3 innings this year.

A warm welcome

After sustaining his hitting streak through the first seven games of the Nationals’ road trip, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman came one hit short of bringing it home, going 0-for-3 against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday and stopping the string at 30 games.

Still, Zimmerman got a long standing ovation before his first at-bat. The third baseman stepped out of the batter’s box and twice tipped his batting helmet to the crowd before digging in against Joe Blanton.

In a news conference before the game, Zimmerman said the first time he felt pressure during the streak was in his last at-bat Wednesday, where he grounded into a forceout in the ninth inning.

“[It wasn’t] pressure, because a lot of people were watching, just pressure that I wanted to continue it for other people, not me,” Zimmerman said. “I think other people had more fun with it than I did. When I was going up there, I really wanted to do it - not for me, but I think it would have been fun to bring it back here.”

As the streak hit 30 and the attention started to mount, Zimmerman allowed himself, just briefly, to enjoy the spotlight.

“There were more people paying attention to this than I did,” Zimmerman said. “After every game, I had all these text messages. That was the coolest part about it. Realistically, did I think I was even going to get close [to Joe DiMaggio’s record of 56 games]? No. But I wanted to do it for everyone else more than me.”

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