Maybe the Washington Nationals were going broke from shuttling pitchers between their triple-A farm club at Syracuse and the nation's capital trying to find Band-Aids to fix their horrendous mound staff.

So late Monday night, the Nationals fired pitching coach Randy St. Claire, who just happened to be the only coach retained from last year's staff.

The Nationals began last night's game in last place in the NL East by 91/2 games with a league-worst 5.69 ERA. They had allowed the most runs (308) and recorded the fewest saves (eight) of any team in baseball while blowing 12 saves.

"The pitchers didn't perform," St. Claire told "I've packed up and I'm going to take a few days off and think about my future. I have been [fired] before."

St. Claire, who was in his seventh season with the franchise, was replaced by Syracuse pitching coach Steve McCatty.

Speaking of bullpens

The Milwaukee Brewers are looking for answers in their bullpen, which is without Mark DeFelice, a former Haverford High star, for the time being and David Riske for much longer.

The Brewers released Jorge Julio yesterday after the veteran allowed five runs against Florida while facing six batters, and called up righthander Mike Burns from triple-A Nashville. Julio went 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA in 15 games for Milwaukee.

Brewers manager Ken Macha said Monday night his bullpen was too thin to bridge the gap between the sixth inning and the setup relievers in front of closer Trevor Hoffman. DeFelice has a stiff elbow and Riske needs surgery on his elbow.

Riske, who signed a three-year, $13 million contract before the 2008 season and was thought of as a potential closer, underwent surgery in September to remove a bone spur on his elbow, and appeared in just one game this season.

A one-game wonder?

When Atlanta rookie centerfielder Jordan Schafer hit a home run in his first major-league plate appearance on opening night at Citizens Bank Park, he looked as if he had the potential to be an everyday player.

He probably will play every day this week - in the minor leagues.

The Braves yesterday optioned the 22-year-old to their triple-A Gwinnett farm club. He was batting .204 with eight RBIs and 63 strikeouts in 167 at-bats. His two homers came in Games 1 and 3 against the Phillies.

The Braves recalled Gregor Blanco, who was with the parent club for the 2008 season.


Cincinnati pitcher Edinson Volquez went back on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with tendinitis in his right elbow, a day after he lasted only one inning in his first start off the DL. . . . Florida activated righthander Anibal Sanchez in time for last night's start vs. the Brewers. He was 1-4 with a 5.79 ERA when he was put on the disabled list May 8 with a right-shoulder sprain. The Marlins also called up outfielder Alejandro De Aza from triple-A New Orleans. . . . The Nationals activated outfielder Elijah Dukes from the disabled list and placed righthander Kip Wells on the DL with an adductor strain in his right leg.