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Nationals Notebook

Tucker Working on Repertoire

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page D04

VIERA, Fla., March 11 -- Washington Nationals reliever T.J. Tucker is attempting to double his repertoire from two pitches to four this spring, so if the results on the field are less than stellar, there is a reason.

Tucker, 26, took advantage of his locker's proximity to that of veteran Esteban Loaiza, asking Loaiza to show him how he grips his trademark "cut" fastball. Loaiza obliged, and Tucker, after a few bullpen sessions, has taken the pitch to the mound in his early appearances.

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"It's turned out to be pretty good," Tucker said of the new pitch. "But Loaiza's is unbelievable. He's a good dude."

Tucker is also working on a change-up this spring, a pitch he has never thrown. His other pitches are a fastball and slider.

After starting the spring with two scoreless outings, Tucker has allowed a total of seven earned runs in his last two appearances, spanning just three innings. In Friday's 12-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, he allowed a windblown three-run homer to Brandon Berger.

"I still haven't gotten a feel for all my pitches," he said. "But a lot of guys haven't even been throwing their secondary pitches [and are] just throwing fastballs."

Manager Frank Robinson said he is not worried about Tucker's results, but added, "He needs to start missing some bats."

One Liner

On a day the wind was blowing out briskly to left field, the Nationals managed to keep Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols in the yard in all four of his at-bats. However, Pujols nearly took off shortstop Ian Desmond's glove -- and quite possibly his entire hand -- with a rocket line drive that was ruled a base hit. . . .

Robinson played a "B" lineup Friday and will do so again Saturday in Jupiter, Fla., against the Florida Marlins.

"I want to see a little bit more of [the reserves]," he said, "and it gives the guys who are going to be playing a lot later a little breather before we really start to get into this, in the next week or so."

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