05/24/06 12:15 AM ET
Notes: Hernandez happy with Nats
Right-hander expresses desire to remain in Washington
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Hernandez often has said the organization has left him alone and allowed him to pitch in peace. Those are two reasons he wants to stay with the Nationals for many years to come. However, Hernandez has heard his name in trade rumors. At least 15 clubs are interested in his services. The Mets are one team that is interested the right-hander, and the Nationals want top prospects Lastings Milledge and Mike Pelfrey in return.
"It's a difficult time and the Nationals are not playing well. The team has a chance to come back," Hernandez said. "There's nothing you can do if somebody says that you will get traded. I don't want to get traded because I like it here. I have a lot of friends here. I do a lot of good things for this organization. When I was traded to this organization, my career turned around and [the Expos] were winning. This is a great organization."
Hernandez feels that he is back on track on the mound this season. After a slow start, Hernandez has pitched two quality games, giving up three earned runs in last 14 innings. Overall, he is 2-5 with a 5.51 ERA. His slow start was because he was still recovering from offseason knee surgery.
"I never missed a start, and the organization has to be happy about that. I'm there every five days. I do a lot of things for the organization, and the people have to be happy about me," he said.
More trade rumors: According to a baseball source, the Yankees have expressed interest in outfielder Ryan Church. The Yankees have been looking for outfield help with the wrist injury to Hideki Matsui. The Nationals want prospects in return for Church.
Church, who could provide some power for the Yankees, was recently sent down to Double-A Harrisburg after hitting .215 with four home runs and 11 RBIs. It marked the second time this season that Church was sent to the Minor Leagues. He started the season for Triple-A New Orleans after Brandon Watson beat him out for the center-field job.
Church, 27, returned to the team on April 13 and, except for a three-game spurt in April in which he hit four home runs and drove in nine, didn't provide the spark the Nationals were looking for.
Some in the Nationals organization believe that a change of scenery is what Church needs right now.
Last season was the first time Church was given a chance in the big leagues, hitting .287 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in 102 games for the Nationals.
More playing time: Manager Frank Robinson said after Tuesday's game that Damian Jackson has earned the right to start more games in center field for the Nationals after hitting a home run on Tuesday against the Astros. During the month of May, Jackson has hit .333 (8-for-24) with four home runs and six RBIs.
"He's earned it the way he's playing," Robinson said. "He is giving us a little spark and he is getting some big hits for us."
Difference of opinion: The fact that catcher Brian Schneider is off to a slow start, hitting .230 with one home run and 14 RBIs, and is currently on the disabled list is cause for concern to the Nationals, especially since he signed four-year, $16 million deal last January.
But Schneider denied that he's become complacent, saying that he is working harder than ever. He pointed out that he was 7-for-21 (.333) to raise his average from .205 to .230 before he strained his left hamstring.
"I get off to a slow start every year. I don't hit right away," Schneider said. "I don't understand how you can be complacent and continue to come to the field early, get your work in and work hard. Being complacent means you don't care what's going on. I get upset when I do things wrong and I come in and continue to work hard."
Schneider is expected to come off the disabled list on Friday and be ready to play against the Dodgers. First, he will go to Potomac starting on Tuesday and be a designated hitter for two games. Schneider has already done his running and catching drills the last few days and said that he doesn't feel any pain. He will return to the Nationals on Thursday.
"I feel good, Schneider said. "I'm running good. I caught Pedro Astacio [during a simulated game on Monday]. I caught 15 pitches each inning. I threw to second and third in between sessions. The throws were on the money."
He's back: After missing the last five games because of a right hamstring strain, Jose Guillen was back in the lineup on Tuesday against the Astros. He arrived at the ballpark at 12:45 p.m. ET and performed his running and agility drills and didn't feel any pain.
Although it went well in the drills, he said the key would be to see if he can go all out while running the bases.
Guillen didn't have any problems, as he went 0-for-2 and drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to right field to plate Jose Vidro in the seventh inning.
This and that: Astacio is expected to make his first rehab start on Friday for Class A Potomac on Friday. If things go well, Astacio will then go to Triple-A New Orleans and pitch a few more games there. ... According to general manager Jim Bowden, Triple-A New Orleans have been told to prepare right-hander Shawn Hill to pitch against the Dodgers on Saturday. Bowden has not ruled out making a trade before that time. ... The Lerner group, led by principal owner Mark Lerner and team president Stan Kasten, will meet the players in the locker room for the first time on Wednesday. ... John Patterson said that he felt some soreness in his right forearm after having his bullpen session on Sunday. He took Monday off and played catch on Tuesday and didn't have any soreness. Patterson, who is on the disabled list, hopes to be pitching in the big leagues by mid-June. ... Reliever Felix Rodriguez has not pitched since May 19 because of right forearm tightness. ... Jon Rauch said he feels much better after coming down with food poisoning on Monday. He was seen taking batting practice and eating food before the game.
Coming up: The Nationals play the third game of a four-game series against Astros on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET at RFK. Left-hander Mike O'Connor will get the start for Washington, while right-hander Roy Oswalt gets the nod for Houston.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.