Inside Pitch: Time For Soul Searching

The Washington Nationals find themselves mired in another skid and Frank Robinson isn't happy. Robinson challenged his players and figures to make a few changes in the lineup when the Nationals take to the field on Thursday.

The Nationals have lost 12 of 15 games, and Frank Robinson has had enough.

The Washington manager held a closed-door meeting following Wednesday's 6-1 loss in Toronto and told his players they needed to do some soul-searching.

"Each individual is going to have to leave here tonight, go back to the hotel, take a look in the mirror and say: 'What can I do, starting tomorrow, to help this ballclub turn this thing around?'" Robinson said.

That includes himself. Robinson said he plans to make significant lineup changes before Thursday's game, perhaps in the leadoff spot. Though Alfonso Soriano is the club's only true leadoff man, Robinson believes Soriano's bat could be put to better use farther down in the order.

As for a replacement leadoff hitter, Robinson said he's been considering veteran second baseman Jose Vidro. Vidro does not have typical leadoff speed, but he's got a .419 on-base percentage and hasn't been driving the ball for extra bases the way he used to.

REPLAY: Once again, Washington's hitters were helpless at the plate. One night after getting shut out by A.J. Burnett, the Nationals managed just one run and seven hits off Ted Lilly and two Blue Jays relievers in a 6-1 loss at Rogers Centre.

The Nationals blew several golden opportunities to score early on. And despite getting four solid innings early from rookie Shawn Hill, they crumbled in a four-run fifth, in which Hill surrendered five hits (three for extra bases).


  • OF Jose Guillen, mired in a 2-for-21 slump and hitting just .212 for the season, took extra batting practice with manager Frank Robinson on Wednesday afternoon. Robinson is trying to get Guillen to work on keeping his hands lower as he starts his swing in an attempt to catch up to inside fastballs. Guillen seems to be receptive to the suggestions. "I've never been in this situation," he said. "I'm really just stressed out. To me, it's really embarrassing, hitting the way I'm hitting. I'm just struggling right now. I stink. I'm not going to make excuses. I just stink."
  • 1B/OF Daryle Ward and LHP Mike Stanton were fined an undisclosed amount for arriving late to Toronto for Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays. Ward and Stanton had been given permission to spend Monday (an off-day) away from the team, but they each ran into weather-related travel problems on Tuesday and didn't arrive at Rogers Centre until after the game had started. Robinson said he can't hold the players responsible for events that were out of their control, but he still wants them to understand the ramifications of cutting it so close. He's also instituting a new team policy requiring all players to take team charter flights instead of being allowed to travel on their own.
  • 2B Jose Vidro served as the Nationals' designated hitter on Wednesday, giving him a chance to rest his legs and not take a pounding on Rogers Centre's artificial turf. He might need those legs if manager Frank Robinson decides to try Vidro out as a leadoff man.
  • RHP Shawn Hill struggled in his Canadian homecoming Wednesday night, allowing four runs in five innings in a 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays. Hill, who grew up in suburban Toronto and had 80 friends and family members in attendance, said he felt stiffness in his surgically repaired right elbow during this start. "I have stretches where I feel fine, I have stretches where it doesn't feel that good," Hill said. "It's nothing to worry about. I've just got to fight through it."
  • Stanton made his 1,070th career appearance Wednesday night, moving the veteran left-hander into a tie for fourth place on baseball's all-time list. Stanton joins RHP Hoyt Wilhelm in fourth place, and he trails RHP Dennis Eckersley by one game for third place.

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