Watson, Ayala join Nationals; 2 struggling pitchers demoted

Updated: June 20, 2007, 8:09 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Brandon Watson, who this week broke an International League record with a 43-game hitting streak, joined the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.

The Nationals purchased Watson's contract from Triple-A Columbus and also recalled right-handed reliever Luis Ayala from the 60-day disabled list. Ayala has been out for more than a year because of elbow reconstruction surgery. Right-hander Chris Schroder was also recalled from Columbus.

To make room, the Nationals designated struggling relievers Winston Abreu and Levale Speigner for assignment and placed first baseman Robert Fick on the bereavement list. Fick's mother, Gloria, died of lung cancer Tuesday.

Watson hit .330 (77-for-233) with 14 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 57 games with Columbus. His hitting streak ran from May 1 to June 17 and is tied for ninth-longest in minor-league baseball history, according to the Society of Baseball Research.

It also left him wondering when he would be going back to the majors.

"You always think about it, but you never know what's going to happen at the major-league level," said Watson, who started in center field Wednesday night against the Detroit Tigers. "You can only do what you can control down in the minor leagues, and that's what I was doing."

Watson was the opening day center fielder for the Nationals last year, but he batted only .179 in nine games before being optioned to the minors.

Ayala was injured while pitching for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic last year. He recently completed a rehab stint with Columbus and Single-A Potomac, allowing only one earned run over 9 2-3 innings.

Ayala last pitched for Washington in 2005, when he went 8-7 with a 2.66 ERA.

Schroder was 2-2 with a 1.64 ERA and one save in 26 games with Columbus.

Abreu allowed home runs in each of his last three appearances. He was 2-1 with a 6.38 ERA in 19 games.

Speigner went 2-3 with an 8.78 ERA in 19 games, including six starts. He struggled after being put into the rotation following injuries to several Nationals starters.

Because he was a Rule 5 selection, Speigner must go through waivers and then be offered back to the Minnesota Twins before Washington can send him to the minors.

"For those that are here, the suggestion is if you're going to produce at this level, let's produce at this level," general manager Jim Bowden said. "And if you don't, there's going to be changes. Patience goes only so far."

Also Wednesday, right-handed pitcher Jerome Williams (strained shoulder) cleared waivers after being taken off of the 15-day disabled list. He has 72 hours to report to Double-A Harrisburg.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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