Notes: Page back with the organization
Former hitting coach will become a roving hitting instructor
BALTIMORE -- Mitchell Page will return to the Nationals organization as a roving hitting instructor in the Minor League system. His duties will begin after the All-Star break.
Page, 56, will start helping Class A hitters in Potomac and Hagerstown, according to assistant general manager Bob Boone. This will be Page's third job in the Nationals' organization. He was Minor League hitting coordinator in 2005 before being named the Major League hitting coach the following season.
Page declined to talk when reached by phone, but catcher Brian Schneider said he was happy to hear that Page will be back to work real soon.
"He lives and dies for baseball. He will do anything for anybody. He is real passionate about it," Schneider said. "I'm glad to hear that he is coming back. I know a lot of guys on the team are looking forward to seeing him sometime."
Page was the Major League hitting coach for Washington until May 11, when the team granted him a leave of absence for personal reasons and named Lenny Harris the interim hitting coach.
With Page going back to the Minor Leagues, it means that Harris will remain the hitting coach for the rest of the season. Harris has done a good job since replacing Page.
Entering Thursday's action, the Nationals are hitting .270 with 26 home runs and 126 RBIs in 31 games.
"He has done a terrific job," manager Manny Acta said. "He brings a lot of energy. He keeps talking to these guys constantly. He brings a lot to the table. He just stopped playing and he could relate to a lot of our guys. That being said, Mitchell Page did a tremendous job last year and this year. Everybody knows the [poor hitting performance by the Nationals earlier in the season] had nothing to do with Mitchell."
Harris said he loves his new role and wants to stay with the Nationals in the same capacity next year. He started the season as the club's Minor League infield coordinator and is best known for teaching prospect Chris Marrero how to play first base during the offseason.
"I'm having fun at it," Harris said. "It feels like I'm playing again. It's great to be around the guys and I'm feeling their pain when they are not succeeding. I feel like I'm a big part of it now. I feel like I'm getting everybody's attention, especially the hitters."
Injury report: Left fielder Ryan Church was given a day off because of a sore right thigh. The injury is not considered serious, and Acta said Church would be back in the starting lineup on Friday against the Blue Jays.
"We want to make sure that he's OK," Acta said.
Church said the thigh has been bothering him for the last five days, but it got worse while swinging the bat in the eighth inning against the Orioles on Wednesday night. He had an RBI single and was later replaced by Nook Logan.
Going back to his baseball roots: Second baseman Felipe Lopez said he is looking forward to going back to Toronto early Friday morning. It will be the first time that he will step into that city since the Blue Jays traded him to the Reds as part of a four-team deal in 2002.
"It's interesting to go back to see where everything started for me," Lopez said. "I still know a couple of guys over there -- Alex Rios and Vernon Wells."
Lopez entered the big leagues at the age of 21 in 2001 and acknowledged that he was not mentally ready to play in the big leagues. He said he had the support of Buck Martinez, his first big-league manager, but knew he needed a change of scenery after he was demoted to the Triple-A Syracuse in July of 2002. Carlos Tosca was the manager of the Blue Jays at the time.
The race: The Nationals are only 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East. Acta said it was too early to talk about chasing the Mets. The first priority, according to Acta, is to reach the .500 mark and then start talking about chasing teams.
Stat of the day: Entering Thursday's action, the Nationals are 19-12 in their last 31 games. It's the fifth best record in the Major Leagues.
Did you know? The Nationals have won four consecutive road series, including the three-game series against the Orioles.
Coming up: The Nationals travel to Toronto to play a three-game series against the Blue Jays starting Friday night. The last time these two teams met was last season with the Blue Jays sweeping the three-game series at Rogers Centre. In Game 1 on Friday, Washington left-hander Mike Bacsik will face right-hander Roy Halladay.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.