Notes: Acta leads with quiet confidence
Skipper's patience is a skill that took him time to learn
WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Manny Acta has often been praised for being a patient man on and off the field. He has yet to argue a call with an umpire in 2007.
Whenever a player makes a mistake, Acta is known to take him to the side and teach him how to do things the right way. He also never says anything negative about a player to the media. Acta learned how to be calm by watching Braves manager Bobby Cox, Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa and former big-league manager Art Howe.
"I don't think it's good for the players [to see me being volatile]. I think they see that as panic and players reflect on whatever you do," Acta said. "I just try to stay calm and pass that on to them. I am going to go out when the situation merits it, but I'm not going to go out there every single play just so people up there think I'm this fiery type of guy.
"I am fiery. But I don't have to have a sign on my chest saying it. I talk in the dugout, but I'm not cheerleading. I'm pulling for everyone at the plate and on the mound, but not give me an N, give me A, give me a T, none of that stuff."
Acta claims he wasn't always calm. His patience was often tested when he was the manager of Class A Auburn. In 1993, his first year as a professional manager, the team went 30-46. The only player from that team that was able to make it to the big leagues was reliever Billy Wagner, who is now with the Mets.
"That was a team to forget," Acta said.
Chris Sciria, who covered Auburn for The Citizen, said that Acta overstated the fact that he was a volatile manager. Sciria said Acta was the same patient guy.
"It wasn't like he was throwing bats or water coolers. I don't know what he did in the clubhouse when the doors were shut," Sciria said. "What I remember about him is that whether it was a win or a loss, when we went in the clubhouse, he was the same, just like he is now. I don't think he has changed a bit in how he deals with the media. He is a competitor and he wants to win and he imparts that in his players, but he does it in a way where he is not showing them up. There is no resentment."
The biggest strength: It's a good thing the Nationals are carrying 12 pitchers, because none of their first four pitchers in the rotation has had a quality start. The relievers had pitched 14 1/3 innings entering Thursday's action. By carrying the extra pitcher, the Nationals are not worried about burning out the relievers.
"We have a lot of young guys on the [starting staff] and they are going to go through periods where they are going to struggle, so having that extra guy is going to be key," said pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
The bullpen was needed again on Thursday, pitching 5 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks.
"It's early in April," said reliever Micah Bowie. "The starters aren't stretched out that far anyway. They are working pitch counts up. It's one of those things you expect."
Tiger town: Dmitri Young received his American League championship ring from the Tigers on Thursday. Young downplayed the gift because he was not with the team during the postseason last year. The Tigers released him last September.
"It would have meant a lot more if I was there, but it it's still nice to have it in the house," Young said. "It's a pretty nice ring."
Injury report: Setup man Jon Rauch is experiencing a sore left toe. He hurt the toe during pitchers fielding practice, but it wasn't considered serious. Rauch was able to pitch in the last two games and was one of the reasons the Nationals won Wednesday's game against the Marlins. He pitched two-thirds of an inning without giving up a run.
It remains the same: The Nationals have an off-day on Monday, but no one will be skipping a turn. Left-hander Matt Chico will pitch on Tuesday against the Braves.
Stat of the day: Young is one of 76 active players with at least 600 career RBIs.
Did you know: The Nationals have used three starting shortstops in three games. Cristian Guzman started the first game on Monday, Josh Wilson started the next day and Felipe Lopez was the starting shortstop on Wednesday.
Coming up: The Nationals return to RFK Stadium to play the second game of a four-game series against the Diamondbacks on Friday. Washington right-hander Jerome Williams will face Arizona right-hander Micah Owings.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.