- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NEW YORK | The Washington Nationals gave Daniel Cabrera two months, eight starts and one relief appearance to try to turn himself around. In the end, the club decided it couldn’t afford to wait any longer.

Cabrera was designated for assignment following Tuesday night’s loss to the New York Mets, a move that forces the Nationals to eat the remainder of the right-hander’s $2.6 million contract but one acting general manager Mike Rizzo said had to be made.

“You have to put the best 25 players on the roster to give you a chance to win,” Rizzo said. “I look beyond the contract and to the execution and the performance of the player. It wasn’t up to par, and I was tired of watching it.”

Cabrera, who was signed in December by former GM Jim Bowden to be Washington’s No. 3 starter, wound up going 0-5 with a 5.85 ERA in nine appearances. His team was winless in all eight of his starts, so manager Manny Acta demoted the 27-year-old to the bullpen one week ago.

That move didn’t solve the problem. Cabrera made his one and only relief appearance Monday night and issued three walks in only two-thirds of an inning.

The Nationals now have 10 days either to trade Cabrera or pass him through waivers. If he goes unclaimed, he can either report to Class AAA Syracuse or become a free agent. He said Tuesday night he wasn’t sure yet what path he will take but that he “understands the situation.”

Asked why he thought things didn’t work out this season, Cabrera replied: “I think that’s why you see 50,000 people out there. Because this game, you never know what’s going to happen. One day you can be the best; one day you can be the worst. When I came here, I had a good feeling. But nothing was going my way.”

The Nationals will fill Cabrera’s roster spot with catcher Luke Montz, who will be called up from Class AA Harrisburg for probably only one day to serve as a backup catcher. Veteran Josh Bard left the club Tuesday night to be with his wife, who is about to give birth.

Zimmerman fourth in NL

The first batch of All-Star ballot results were revealed Tuesday, and Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman ranks fourth among National League third basemen.

Zimmerman, who began to receive national attention earlier this month for his 30-game hitting streak, received 272,744 votes, well behind the leading vote-getter at third base, the Mets’ David Wright (454,449).

Zimmerman (who is batting .346 with 11 homers and 35 RBI) and Wright (.348 with three homers and 30 RBI) have similar stats through the season’s first two months, but both have put up considerably better numbers than the two third basemen ranked second and third.

Milwaukee’s Bill Hall (batting .234 with a .297 on-base percentage) ranks second with 371,950 votes, while Atlanta’s Chipper Jones (hitting .319 with four homers and 16 RBI) is third.

MacDougal asks out

Reliever Mike MacDougal has exercised an “out” clause in his minor league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if the Nationals didn’t promote him to the majors by Monday.

Washington still has 48 hours to decide whether to call the right-hander up or let him walk, and there are indications the club could promote him after he posted a 1.23 ERA and two saves in seven appearances with Syracuse.

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