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Nationals Notebook

Robinson Kept Lineup To Himself

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 5, 2005; Page D07

PHILADELPHIA, April 4 - Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said repeatedly over the past week that he wouldn't figure out his lineup until after the exhibition season was over. But asked Monday morning when he had finally reached a conclusion, he responded, "About six days ago."

Six days earlier, projected center fielder and leadoff man Endy Chavez was sent to the minors, and though Brad Wilkerson didn't hit first at all during spring training, there he was when the Nationals played the first game in their history, atop the lineup in an 8-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

_____ Opening Day _____
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.

_____ On Our Site _____
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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"Frank gave me the idea it might happen a couple of weeks ago," Wilkerson said.

The new lineup - with Wilkerson at the top and fellow leadoff candidates Cristian Guzman and Nick Johnson second and fifth, respectively - was unlike any the Nationals used all spring. It took shape in part out of necessity. Terrmel Sledge played left because Ryan Church, the likely starter in center, felt tightness in his groin going back for a ball in the team's final exhibition game Sunday at RFK Stadium.

"It's a bummer," Church said. "But I have to look at the long term."

Long Road Home

The Nationals not only open the season with a nine-game road trip, but 22 of their first 25 games are against divisional rivals from the National League East. The only exception: The first series in Washington, April 14-17 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"We want to win some of these ballgames on the road before we go back home so the fans will really be excited about it, and so will we," Robinson said. . . .

Infielder Tony Blanco made his major league debut, striking out as a pinch hitter in the eighth. J.J. Davis also appeared as a pinch hitter, singling in the sixth.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company