James Williams, the person responsible for keeping an eye on outfielder Elijah Dukes on and off the field, has been dismissed by the Nationals. The move occurred during the last home stand at Nationals Park.
The Nationals feel that Dukes, 25, is mature enough to take care of himself. Since his return from Triple A Syracuse last August, Dukes has been media friendly and often talks about what he needs to do to get better on the field.
He was the first to say that he needs to work on hitting breaking balls a lot better. The plan is to play Winter Ball for the Licey Tigers.
“The plan was to have James Williams close by to make sure that everything goes right,” Dukes said. “For two years, things have been going right. There is no need to continue to have James on my side all the time, when I know I can get it done myself and keep doing the right things.”
In a statement to MLB.com, Williams said he was grateful to work for the Nationals.
“My experience with the Nationals cannot be compared to any venture I ever endured,” he said. “I thank management for allowing me to be part of such a professional organization and have great respect for the players No one truly understands what they go through to be a Major League player.
“Elijah has a great future and I know he now understands the importance of diplomacy. It is the best method of resolving issues. I truly love him and his family as if they were own. He will make it. Many people are praying for him.
“I thank baseball operations, media, TV and radio crews for educating me on the game of baseball.”
Williams was hired by then-manager Jim Bowden before the 2007 season. Current general manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten were not available for comment.
Nationals center fielder Willie Harris left Saturday’s game against the Braves because of right oblique strain. It’s doubtful he will play the last game of the season against Atlanta on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field.
After striking out in the top of fifth inning against right-hander Jair Jurrjens, Harris was seen limping back to the visiting dugout. He was replaced by outfielder Justin Maxwell.
Harris is hitting .235 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs this season.
The local media talked to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo about a few topics on Saturday. Here are some of things Rizzo had to say.
* Shortstop Cristian Guzman will have an MRI on Monday to determine what’s wrong with his ailing right shoulder. Whatever the doctors find, Rizzo expects Guzman to be ready for Spring Training. When he starts playing again, Guzman will most likely be the everyday second baseman.
* Washington will end the season with the worst record in baseball, but it’s not a given that catcher Bryce Harper will be the team’s first overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft Why?
“I haven’t seen him yet. He certainly hasn’t separated himself like [pitcher] Stephen Strasburg did last year,” Rizzo said.
* After the season, naming a full-time manager isn’t the only thing the Nationals have to take care of.
The first order of business is to fill some holes in the front office. The Nationals are looking for an assistant general manager and a farm director. They need to get permission from other teams to talks to the candidates for those jobs. There also will be adjustment of job titles in the front office.
* Rizzo believes Dukes has found a home in right field with the Nationals. Rizzo said Dukes is a guy who can drive in runs, but needs make adjustments at the plate. Dukes has only eight home runs entering Saturday’s action against Braves. Rizzo has a theory as to why Dukes has struggled to hit home runs.
“A number of advance scouts are scouting him well. Opposing pitchers pitch him very tough. He needs to learn to make adjustments,” Rizzo said.
All season Dukes has been vulnerable to breaking balls.
Nationals interim manager Jim Riggleman said on Friday that he doesn’t plan on having Adam Dunn sit out the remaining three games of the season, because the skipper wants Dunn to reach the 40-home run plateau for the sixth year in a row.
However, entering Friday’s action against the Braves, Dunn finds himself in an 0-for-26 slump, while his batting average dipped to .266. Part of the problem, according to hitting coach Rick Eckstein, is he is not in the right position in the batter’s box and missing good pitches to hit.
“When he got his pitch to hit, he has missed it,” Eckstein said before Friday’s game. “That’s the biggest difference. It’s just getting back to the pitches in the zone he knows he could handle. He has to keep his swing short and through the ball.
“We are trying to get him back in a good direction. Right now he is coming off the ball too quick. The last couple of days he said that he felt much better.”
Dunn showed that he felt much better in the first inning Friday. With two outs, he doubled to left field in his first at-bat off right-hander Derek Lowe.
It appears that Ross Detwiler’s season is not over. He will start Saturday afternoon’s game against the Braves.
On Monday, the left-haner pitched six solid innings and won his first Major League game against the Mets. It appeared he was done at a combined 147 1/3 innings, but the Nationals thought he had enough innings left in him to get a another start.
The Nationnals also wanted to respect the Braves and the Rockies, who were battling for the National League Wild Card. Washington planned to put in their best players on the field that day.
However, Colorado won the National League Wild Card on Thursday afternoon and Atlanta is out of the playoff race. Don’t look for the Nationals to change their minds when it comes to Detwiler.
“We want to see him get one more start under his belt before he shuts it down for the year,” general manager Mike Rizzo. “It has been really interesting and exciting to see how his composure has improved. His command has improved — just the whole package of what he brings to the table.”
Detwiler, the Nationals’ first-round pick in the 2007 First Year player Draft, will compete for a rotation spot next year.