Notes: Lopez swinging a hot bat early

Notes: Lopez swinging a hot bat early

WASHINGTON -- Nationals second baseman Felipe Lopez is off to a good start with the bat. Entering Sunday's action, Lopez was 9-for-26 (.346) with a run scored.

The success with the bat is the antithesis of how he performed with the stick during Spring Training. In 22 exhibition games, Lopez hit .185, but there was a reason for the drought in Spring Training and why he was able to turn it up a notch when the season started.

"In Spring Training, I was concentrating on my defense at second base. I wasn't really working with the bat like I am now," Lopez said. "I'm going to the cages and doing my routine."

When the Nationals acquired him from the Reds, Lopez was known as a hitter with some power. His career high is 23 home runs with the Reds in 2005. However, since joining Washington, Lopez has hit just two home runs in 300 at-bats. It's almost as if Lopez knows it's a waste to go for home runs in a big ballpark like Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.

"I just worry about making contact and getting my base hits. The home runs are going to come," Lopez said. "RFK is a big ballpark. There is no need to be hitting fly balls here, especially since we don't score a lot. I just want to get on base and make things happen."

Trade discussions: In need of pitching depth, the Nationals have expressed interest in Brewers reliever Jose Capellan, but a baseball source said it's doubtful the two clubs can work out a deal.

"[The Nationals] don't match up with what the Brewers want," the source said.

Last season, Capellan pitched in 71 games and was 4-2 with a 4.40 ERA for Milwaukee. However, he was the final pitcher cut in Spring Training and was sent down to Triple-A Nashville. Since then, Capellan's agent, Bill Rego, requested a trade for the right-hander, according to published reports.

Getting into shape and giving advice: First baseman Nick Johnson, who is still recovering from a broken right leg, will travel with the team to Atlanta and New York in order to continue his rehab with athletic trainer Lee Kuntz. Johnson credits Kuntz for making his leg stronger. Johnson is walking better, jogging and able to jump rope.

"He is pushing me and is always on me," Johnson said. "I'm still having a problem starting and slowing down. It's getting better, but I can't say it feels great."

Johnson also has become a mentor. He recently looked at video tapes of outfielder Kory Casto and told him on Sunday morning that he wasn't using his top hand enough. Casto currently has too much of an upper cut swing.

"We were talking about getting my top hand more involved. Sometimes I get a little underneath [the ball.] He was just throwing some things out there," Casto said. "Nick is one of the first guys here. He is always around. He doesn't have to be with me, but he chooses to do that. He has passion for the game."

The stats say it all: Manager Manny Acta decided to sit first baseman Dmitri Young down on Sunday in favor of Robert Fick because Fick is 4-for-8 lifetime against right-hander Livan Hernandez. Young is hitless in 11 career at-bats against Hernandez.

Stats of the day: Entering Sunday's action, the Nationals are hitting .324 when runners are not in scoring position in the last three games.

Did you know: The Nationals have left 52 runners on base entering Sunday's action.

Coming up: The Nationals have the day off on Monday, but travel to Atlanta to play a three-game series against the Braves starting Tuesday night.

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