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NATS PIQUED AT MLB, WBC, AYALA

[March 18th] -- The Washington Nationals are "mad as hell," and they aren't going to take it any more.

Luis Ayala was shut down for much of Steptember because of bone chips in his throwing shoulder, chips that were removed this off-season. He came to spring training sore, and was to be put on a regimen that would slowly return him to health by the beginning of the season.

According to an article on the team's weblsite, Ayala agreed with the Nats initially, but was pressured by members of Team Mexico to play for his home country. Each attempt made by the Nationals to protect his arm was rebuked by Major League Baseball and the players union, and by Ayala himself. So he played, and in return for his 1.2 innings pitched, he is lost for the season.

Nats' trainer Tim Abraham said that when Ayala left for the WBC, he was only able to pitch batting practice. "We cautioned him the whole time. We said, 'Louis, you are coming off surgery. We want you to be healthy for the whole year,' and that's all you can tell him." Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said that the team gave Mexico specific instructions on how to use Ayala, but they weren't followed.

Some players are upset with Ayala and the WBC as well. Jose Vidro felt the same pressure as did Ayala to play with Puerto Rico, but he realized the damage it might have caused his knee. "I thought about it a long time, and I thought it was best for me to stay here. We felt the same thing about Ayala. Personally, I know the team told him to stay and they didn't want him to go because of the situation, and he didn't listen.

Hopefully, he learns from this."

Luckily, Luis Ayala is a replaceable component; the signing of Felix Rodriguez and the good play of Steve Watkins and Kevin Gryboski has made sure of that. But what if it had been John Patterson or Livan Hernandez? The team could never have survived that type of loss.

GM Jim Bowden wants a new rule in place in time for the next WBC three years from now. Any player who had surgery during the off-season shouldn't be allowed to play. Period. Perhaps no other team will have to suffer this type of loss again.


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