Nats Minor League Notebook--Senators Heating Up

The AA Harrisburg Senators are on a tear thanks to some dominating pitching from their bullpen.

Justin Echols won his third start in a row for AA Harrisburg to pull his record above the break even mark at 4-3. The 6-3, 200-lb right-hander struck out six in the Senators' 5-3 win over the Bowie Baysox.

Edgar Gonzalez had two hits and drove in two runs in the win.

After falling to a season low at 10 games under .500 on May 23, the Senators have won five series in a row, and have take 12 of their last 16 games. Their bullpen, led by Saul Rivera and Jason Norderum, has been deadly efficient during that stretch. In the last 29 innings the pen has allowed just two runs, only one earned, struck out 28 and walked only 8. The relievers' ERA in that stretch is 0.31.

After twice taking Eastern League Player of the Week honors in May, it was only logical that Dee Haynes was named Player of the Month. For the month Haynes hit.421 (32-for-76) with six doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 27 RBI, 15 runs scored, a .450 on-base percentage and a .803 slugging percentage in 18 games.

Jeffrey Hammonds is in Harrisburg on a rehab assignment and has one hit, a double, in six at bats. The team is awaiting the arrival Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals' first pick in the recent draft. He will make his debut sometime in the coming week.

In AAA New Orleans Josh Karp, is still struggling. His ERA is 5.96 in 17 appearances, a figure almost identical to the 5.94 ERA he posted in AAA last year. Still, he has twice as many strikeouts as walks (22-11) and has held opposing hitters to a respectable .247 batting average. At age 26, he is on the verge of turning from a prospect into a career minor-leaguer.

Matt Cepicky is also at a critical age, 28, but the outfielder is making a much stronger case that he belongs than is Karp. He's batting .278 with an OPS of .864, 10 home runs and 45 RBI and he has appeared in each of the Zephyrs' 57 games this year.

Bill Bray, the Nationals' first pick in the 2004 draft, is being brought along slowly as he recovers from back problems. He's 1-0 in A Potomac with a 3.00 ERA in six innings. Bray got roughed up a bit on Wednesday as he gave up two runs in 2.2 innings against Winston-Salem.

The Nationals won that game 10-9, nearly blowing a 10-5 seventh inning lead. They build that lead with a lot of help from center fielder Frank Diaz, who boosted his average to .308 for the year by getting a double in a home run in five at bats.

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