O'Connor Replaces Chico in Rotation

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

O'Connor Replaces Chico in Rotation


Byline: Mark Zuckerman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

HOUSTON - The Washington Nationals demoted Matt Chico to the bullpen yesterday and announced fellow left-hander Mike O'Connor will replace the struggling starter in the rotation.

O'Connor will start Saturday night against the Florida Marlins; Chico was available to pitch in relief last night against the Houston Astros.

"We just want to release Matt from some of that tension that he's having every five days going out there," manager Manny Acta said. "And we want to give O'Connor a shot. He pitched well at Triple-A, and we still see him as a starter."

Chico's removal from the rotation seemingly had been a possibility for two weeks, amplified each time the 24-year-old took the mound and lost. In seven starts, he was 0-5 with a 6.87 ERA, and after recent outings admitted he was "pressing."

Chico has never been a reliever before but said he was fine with the club's decision and hopes the change will get him back on track.

"I was gripping the ball way too tight, trying to make that perfect pitch and ended up leaving balls over the middle," he said. "I think just the change of scenery ... hopefully it's going to help me get back to where I want to be and get back to the starting rotation"

The switch puts O'Connor back in the Washington rotation for the first time since 2006, when the pitcher from Ellicott City, Md., went 3-8 with a 4.80 ERA. He did not pitch in the majors last season and posted a 7.07 ERA at Class AA Harrisburg.

But O'Connor impressed team officials with a new arsenal of pitches this spring, including a devastating slider that was absent in 2006. After going 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA at Class AAA Columbus he earned a promotion to the Washington bullpen.

The 27-year-old said he will be less nervous about his first start this time around than he was two years ago as a rookie.

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