Thursday, April 13, 2006

RFK Stadium’s cavernous dimensions are back in the heads of the Nationals.

Second baseman Jose Vidro raised the subject after Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Mets, when RFK’s spacious outfield took away what would have been home runs in most other ballparks.

“If we’re going to start complaining about the size of this ballpark, or whatever now, we just might as well pack [it] in and go home,” Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. “Because if we don’t, they’re going to be putting us in a little white jacket and carting us out of here.”

The Mets had no problems with RFK yesterday, hitting four home runs to nearly every part of the stadium.

When asked yesterday if club management had spoken to him about his comments, Vidro said, “I know I’m probably going to get some heat. That’s OK, it’s part of the game.”

Vidro, who hit a solo homer Wednesday, had accused franchise management of ignoring the problem.

“It killed us last year, and it’s going to kill us again this year,” Vidro said Wednesday. “The organization didn’t really look deep into it last year. They saw what happened, and they didn’t change anything. So I guess they didn’t care about it, and it’s going to hurt us again this year. I guarantee you …

“This is not by any means a major league ballpark. This is a — you could call this an airplane field. This is not baseball-type dimensions.”

Robinson said Vidro mischaracterized management’s position on winning with his comments.

“It’s already out there now,” Robinson said. “It’s just like it happened last year, one guy starts to complain about it, the next guy picks it up a few games later when they hit a ball pretty decent. Then it starts to spread. To say management doesn’t care about winning, that’s way off base.”

Watson sent down

Washington optioned starting center fielder Brandon Watson and backup catcher Wiki Gonzalez to Class AAA New Orleans and recalled outfielder Ryan Church and utility infielder Brendan Harris.

“We need to do something here to get this club going,” Robinson said yesterday. “Are these two moves going to do it? I don’t know, but we had to do something. I think it makes us a little better ballclub having Harris here.”

Watson won the starting center fielder’s job over Church in spring training when he hit .308 as the leadoff man. But he struggled in his eight regular season games, hitting just .185 with a .214 on-base percentage. Watson had remaining options, which made him a likely candidate to be sent down.

“In the big leagues, you’ve got to produce to stay,” Watson said. “Nobody is panicking, but they wanted to change it up, so they’re going to do what they have to do.”

Church, meanwhile, was hitting just .130 with one home run, two RBI and a .259 on-base percentage in seven games with New Orleans. Robinson said Church will start today against the Florida Marlins.

Harris, who can play third, short and second base, hit .231 with a .355 on-base percentage in seven games with the Zephyrs. Matt LeCroy assumes the backup catcher role in place of Gonzalez.

“If we had some more spare room, there would have been other moves,” Robinson said. “This ballclub is showing signs of not going anywhere. Something has to be done to get some life in this ballclub.”

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