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Nationals Notebook

Cordero Will Open as the Closer

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Sports Writer
Monday, April 4, 2005; Page D12

Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson officially named Chad Cordero his closer yesterday, putting the 23-year-old in the role full time for the first time on Opening Day.

Robinson entered spring training saying that he didn't want to put the burden of the closer's label on Cordero, who won the job last June with the Montreal Expos, the Nationals' predecessor. Cordero saved 14 of 18 opportunities, but Robinson publicly said he was considering using a committee to close games.

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But Robinson said yesterday that he simply didn't want to label Cordero the closer and then have him lose the job during spring training.

"It wasn't a difficult decision," Robinson said. "I wanted to keep an open mind. The kid doesn't have a long track record."

Cordero, who went 7-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 2004, posted a 2.79 ERA in eight appearances this spring, saving three games and walking only one batter. He said yesterday he's ready to embrace the role.

"It's nice to know exactly what role I'm going to be in from Opening Day," he said. "I had a little taste of it last year, and this year, I'm ready. I know I am."

Darling Added to TV Team

Former major league pitcher Ron Darling will join play-by-play man Mel Proctor as the Nationals' hastily assembled television announcing team.

Darling won 136 games over 13 major league seasons, and even made a brief, three-game appearance with the Expos in 1991. He has worked for Fox SportsNet, and has served as a pregame host on Oakland Athletics broadcasts.

"He has a great camera presence," Nationals President Tony Tavares said. "He's just very natural, and comes across well."

Proctor has a history in the Washington area as the television voice of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Bullets. He also called games for the San Diego Padres, and is currently working as the radio voice of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. The Nationals and Clippers worked out a deal in which Proctor will be shared between the two teams. . . .

Third baseman Vinny Castilla, who missed 12 days with a hyperextended left knee, played for the fourth straight day and said his knee feels fine, but he was being cautious. "I didn't want to come out here in the cold with my knee and go too hard and hurt it before the regular season," he said. Castilla went 1 for 3 and was booed briefly after he didn't run hard on a grounder that was bobbled by Mets shortstop Anderson Hernandez. . . .

The father of reliever Antonio Osuna, who is stricken with throat cancer, had his last chemotherapy treatment on Friday, Osuna said. "Now, we just have to wait and see," Osuna said. Osuna arrived at spring training more than a week late after his father was diagnosed. "I'm doing okay with it," he said. . . .

Micah Bowie, a minor league pitcher brought up to throw a few innings and save the major league staff, threw two pitches before suffering a left triceps strain. He will be reevaluated today before doctors determine when he'll be able to pitch for Class AAA New Orleans. . . . Pitcher Gary Majewski, sent down to New Orleans last week, cut off his shaggy hair himself and shaved his goatee -- and then pitched two hitless innings. "They were giving me [grief] about it in the minors," Majewski said

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