Monday, May 02, 2005

Portside paucity

(Horgan's-mechanics-go-shabby) + (Eischen's-radius-go-snappy) = no lefty?

It wasn't exactly a Joe Theismann moment, but hard-nosed Nats lefty reliever Joey Eischen was reduced to tears last night after stumbling into a broken right radius.

[Aside: Do professional atheletes actually cry at moments like those? I've taken some fairly severe injuries, and even when I was an adolescent---bad leg cut after being thrown off a riding lawn mower when I was a 12 year-old joy-rider; broken foot during a basketball game when I was 15 or so---I can't say I ever came close to crying, despite intense pain. Is it really true that Joey "Suck On It" Eischen would emerge "teary-eyed" from his x-rays? Anyway . . .]

When Eischen injured himself, I wasn't paying close attention to the game. I just saw Eischen fall awkwardly to the ground and convulse in pain, and my reaction was, "What in the world happened?" I wasn't even sure if he was favoring the injured arm consistently.

All things equal, it's lucky that the harm befell his right arm, insofar as Eischen has no designs of becoming the next Greg A. Harris. But good fortune only goes so far, and for the next 8-12 weeks---absent a trade, of course---we're looking at no proven or reliable lefty to summon from the bullpen. Or, perhaps, no lefty at all.

I'll confess I was a little surprised to read that strugglin' Joe Horgan isn't the knee-jerk pick to replace Eischen among the Twenty-Five Men, good and true. Well, maybe "surprised" does not describe my feeling on the subject; in fact, "relieved" (no pun intended) is more like it. As "Rocket Bill" Ladson puts it:

The Nationals are not considering lefty Joe Horgan. He is hasn't retired a batter since being demoted to the Minor Leagues last Sunday and is experiencing a sore shoulder.

Rocket Bill narrows the choice down to Claudio Vargas and Tony Armas the Lesser, both serving rehab stints in New Orleans. ("Hi, Joe!") In his game article, though, St. Barry seems to indicate that the answer is Armas:

Today, someone at Class AAA New Orleans will get the opportunity to pitch for the Nationals, beginning tonight in Los Angeles. General Manager Jim Bowden hadn't decided who, but some in the organization were leaning toward calling up Armas, who had his best start -- six innings, four hits, no runs -- for New Orleans on Saturday.

(The WashTimes game article contains no speculation on the subject.)

Well, now's as good a time as any to remark that Eischen's injury, while never welcomed, has occurred at a particularly inopportune time. The Nats' schedule is a mess now, as the team departed immediately after last night's game for the West Coast. The Nationals will play three-each versus the Dodgers, the Giants (at least no Bonds!), and the D-Bucks. (Note on that linked schedule: It denotes the second game of the Chicago series, after the team returns home, as being broadcast by "CSN"; that's Comcast SportsNet in Chicago, not Mid-Atlantic, of course.) Chris Needham mentioned this both at last night's YudaChat and today, but it's worth repeating: last night's game was fairly important, both in the standings and "psychologically."

Now, I posed the question at the 20-game mark, and most everybody said that 10-10 was a happy occurrence; if I were to pose the same question today, of course 13-12 would inspire much approval. In addition, it is not like the Nationals have not already faced early-season adversity; after all, the Good Guys were the last ones to get a home date.

But this road trip is going to be a gut-check time. If things implode, and Washington comes home bloodied with a 1-8 road trip, that could be the last time we see the team within striking distance of first all season.

Okay, let's project something mildly better. What's reasonable for a West Coast swing? I haven't done any historical research, but I'll WAG that something in the neighborhood of 3-6 or 4-5 would be respectable. Well, a win last night would have put the team at 14-11; accordingly, a 3-6 swing would have left the team at .500 and returning home. Now, it will take 4-5 to do so. Big deal? Maybe, or maybe not. But it probably makes a big difference to us, the fans.

A saving grace, given Eischen's injury, is that Colorado is not part of this road trip. Of course, the Dodgers and Giants (?!) are first and third, respectively, in the National League in runs scored, and Arizona's park traditionally favors hitters, too. All this means that Frank Robinson had better stay smart and keep up with the pace of the game.

Which brings me to my piece of advocacy today: bye bye, Carlos Baerga.

Okay, it's not a particularly novel idea; alright, Nationals Review proposed the same idea a few days ago, and I've replied twice in that very thread. Well, what can I say? Josh has a good point, and I agree.

Here's my thinking in short-form---

Out: Baerga.
In: Brendan Harris.
Why? Viable double-switchee.
Complication: Harris doesn't bat lefthanded.
Resolution? Not important.
Why? Harris also isn't a carcass and can competently play a couple of positions in the field.

---One more note: Bowden, should he decide to foist a lefty back on the pitching staff, might be exploring for some options. As a courtesy, loyal Capitol Punishment readers have provided some, uh, historical ones here.

Two things on the B-Har front
1) I reasoned that Baerga was brought up because he had played first base (he was replacing Cordero). Harris hasn't. Not that the 30 or so games he has played there should make a difference, but I'm sure it does to Frank.

2) Brendan is not exactly tearing up AAA. Walking fine, but hitting not so hot.

I advocated somewhere bringing up perennial also-ran Rick Short, who is hitting well. The guy is a great contact hitter who's promotion would make a nice story for the papers.
Come to think of it, that might be a better idea . . .
Theezman -- What part of the field did his leg get broken on?
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