Notes: Church trying to relax

Notes: Church trying to keep focus on baseball

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Ryan Church had conversations with bench coach Pat Corrales, Jose Cardenal, the team's special advisor to the general manager, and his younger brother, Matthew, on Saturday. The theme of the conversations with Ryan was the same. They told him to relax.

Matthew, a U.S. Army ranger, was deployed to Iraq on Sunday, and Ryan acknowledged that Matthew's pending departure for the war was affecting his game. Entering Sunday's action, Church was 2-for-16 (.125) with two RBIs.

But after talking to Matthew, Corrales and Cardenal, Ryan is at peace with Matthew's situation. Ryan wasn't afraid to admit that there were tears shed on his part during his 45-minute conversation with Matthew.

"My brother assured me that he was going to be OK," Ryan said. "I was wishing him the best of luck and he gave me the best of luck. He said, 'Go out and handle your business,' and he [said he] will see me in October and we'll have a couple of cold [beers] together.

"The biggest thing for me was just relax and just have fun again. He told me not to get caught up into everything that is going on with him. Cardenal and Corrales told me to relax. They said, 'You are too good of a player to be getting all stressed out over that stuff. All you have to do is play the game the way it is supposed to be played.'

"Matthew told me to relax, don't worry about him. He has a job to do just like I do. He is on his way to Iraq and there's nothing I can do about it. It's in God's hands. After I got off the phone, I felt good."

Church was relaxed and had a good game against the Dodgers on Sunday. He went 2-for-5 with a run scored. Even more impressive is that he battled against left-handed pitching, something he had trouble doing all of last year. Although he went 0-for-2 against southpaws on Sunday, he was able to have quality at-bats.

"I feel like I stayed in there and I've faced a lot of lefties now and I'm feeling comfortable," Church said. "It's just a matter of timing and getting the sweet spot on the ball."

Michalak has ordinary outing: Left-hander Chris Michalak, who is battling for a spot in the rotation, pitched 2 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits. The two runs were scored in the first inning when Jeff Kent hit a two-run shot.

Michalak left the game in the third inning with the bases loaded and one out, but left-hander Mike Bacsik bailed Michalak out and got Kent to hit into a double play.

"I thought Michalak was OK," manager Manny Acta said. "Nothing to brag about. He left the bases loaded with one out. I think Bacsik deserves all the credit. He came in and got the double play."

Not good: Right-hander Chris Schroder has a blazing fastball and not much else. It haunted him on Sunday against the Dodgers. He came into the ninth inning with a 9-7 lead, but ended up taking the loss after giving up three runs in the frame.

"He needs to work on his secondary pitches," Acta said. "Up [in the big leagues], with one pitch all the time, guys will time it and hurt you."

Schroder is working on a slider with Jose Rijo, the special assistant to the general manager.

FYI: The Nationals are planning to make more cuts on Monday instead of Tuesday, which is an off-day.

Stat of the day: After 11 games, the Nationals are hitting .263 with eight home runs and 55 RBIs.

Did you know? The last Rule 5 Draft pick to have success in the Nationals/Expos organization was reliever Luis Ayala. He was drafted in December 2002 from the Diamondbacks and was 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 65 games for the Expos in 2003.

Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag runs every Monday. Send in your questions now.

Coming up: The Nationals return to Space Coast Stadium on Monday to play the Mets for the second time in three days. On Saturday, Washington defeated New York, 7-6, in 10 innings.

Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill will face Mets right-hander Chan Ho Park. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.