August 1st, 2009

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Milledge finds hitting stroke with Pirates

I spoke to Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge on Saturday afternoon. He made it clear to me that he did not want to talk about his experiences with the Nationals.

The only thing he would say was that he got into some bad hitting habits with the Nationals starting in Spring Training.

It wasn’t until he broke his finger during the season that he realized that he had to go back to the old hitting style that got him to the big leagues. A person close to Milledge told me on June 30 that Milledge got into the those bad habits because he was trying to please Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein. This same person felt that Eckstein altered Milledge’s swing for no reason.   

Milledge found his stroke on Friday, however, as he collected two hits and two RBIs against Washington. Asked how good was it to get revenge against his former team, Milledge said, “I want to do well against every team. It’s not a big deal who I do it against. I’m just trying to play well against every team and try to have an outstanding season. I don’t try to pick and choose who I play against.”        

Zimmermann does well in bullpen session

Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, on the 15-day disabled list because of a sore right elbow, had a bullpen session on Saturday afternoon and didn’t have any problems on the mound. He threw 45 pitches in the session.

“Everything went well and I threw all of my pitches. I felt good,” Zimmermann said.

Zimmermann will now go on a rehab assignment and pitch for Class A Potomac against Frederick on Tuesday.

It’s not known how many rehab starts Zimmermann will have before coming off the disabled list.                  

Nationals had to trade Nick Johnson

Interim general manager Mike Rizzo didn’t have a choice but to trade Nick Johnson  because the latter did not want to negotiate an extension with the Nationals. Johnson, by the way, is looking for a two-year deal.  

If Johnson filed for free agency without being traded, there was a good possibility he could have been listed as a C-type player, which means the Nationals wouldn’t get a compensation pick if Johnson signed elsewhere.

As Rizzo found out before the Trade Deadline, there wasn’t much of a market for Johnson. Only the Giants, Marlins and Rangers had interest in Johnson.

The Rangers weren’t willing to give up anything significant for Johnson, so they were out of the picture immediately.

Johnson ranked third on the Giants’ wish list when it came to acquiring a first baseman. Ryan Garko was clearly San Francisco’s No. 1 choice.

The Marlins were the only team that showed any strong interest. The Nationals were not going to budge unless pitcher Aaron Thompson was in the deal. With 17 minutes left before the deadline, the two teams agreed to terms. The Nationals also gave the Marlins $1.5 million.