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Nationals Notebook

Wilkerson Has Yet to Hit Stride

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 26, 2005; Page D06

VIERA, Fla., March 25 -- Brad Wilkerson, for now, has his wish: He is hitting lower in the order, where he likely will drive in more runs. Now, all he has to do is hit.

Wilkerson went hitless in two at-bats Friday in the Washington Nationals' rain-shortened, 5-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. He is hitting just .176 this spring.

Orioles' Miguel Tejada rounds third base after hitting a home run in Baltimore's 5-1 rain-shortened exhibition victory over the Nationals. Jose Guillen accounted for Washington's only run with the team's 10th homer in 21 games. (John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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The Nationals and Manager Frank Robinson, pictured, lose to the Phillies, 8-4, on Monday.
Thomas Boswell: The first bit of reality sinks in and grounds the Nationals.
Mike Wise: Like old times, Washington loses a baseball game.
Terrmel Sledge's home run ball is headed for Cooperstown.
Montreal barely notices the Expos and baseball are gone.
Mayor Anthony Williams and some fans travel to Philadelphia.
Nationals boosters around town stopped to catch the first game.
More milestones for the Nats.
Nationals' 76 Game TV Schedule.

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Box score
Video of fans following the team to the first game vs. the Phillies.
More Opening Day photos from the game in Philadelphia.
Photos from the Nationals' first exhibition contest at RFK Stadium.

_____ Baseball Preview _____
It will be tough for the Orioles- Nationals matchup to join the ranks of great baseball rivalries.
A closer look at the Nationals' rivals in the NL East.
Thomas Boswell: The old rivalry between Washington and Baltimore should not take long to heat up.
Baseball Preview Section

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"He's not comfortable," Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. "He's just not in a good groove right now. He's not far off, but he's just not there yet."

Wilkerson, who hit 32 homers last season, said he usually needs about 60 or even 70 at-bats in spring training before he feels ready. After Friday, he has just 40 plate appearances. A sore back cost him some time earlier in spring training.

"I think it's just a matter of getting my timing back," Wilkerson said. "The last week's been tough just because we've been on the road a lot. I need to get my swings in the cage and work it out."

The Nationals' offense as a whole is in a bit of a slump, hitting just .270, 13th in the National League. Since scoring 17 runs in a pair of wins last weekend, Washington has scored just four runs in four games. Jose Guillen hit the team's 10th homer in 21 games Friday.

"The hitters will get there," Robinson said. "They'll get sharper. The main thing is to be ready for Opening Day."

Greisinger Dealt

The Nationals traded right-hander Seth Greisinger, a former All-Met from McLean High, to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named. Greisinger, who lives in Alexandria, pitched in just one inning for Washington before being sent to minor league camp on March 7. A former first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers, he is trying to work his way back from years of arm problems. . . .

A club source said the Nationals are talking to former New York Mets shortstop Rey Ordoñez as a backup infielder, but are still prepared to break camp with their current team. Ordoñez last played for the Chicago Cubs last year, hitting just .164 in 23 games. . . . Endy Chavez returned to the lineup after missing three games with a sore elbow.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company