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Nationals Notebook

Hernandez Likely for Opener

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 17, 2005; Page D09

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 16 -- Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said Wednesday that, barring an injury, right-hander Livan Hernandez would almost certainly be his starter on Opening Day, April 4 in Philadelphia.

"He's healthy right now, and I see no reason why he wouldn't," Robinson said.

But that's as far as Robinson will go in projecting the rotation or the lineup. The first workout for pitchers and catchers isn't until Thursday, and position players aren't due to report until Sunday. The first full-squad workout follows Tuesday. Robinson actively discourages predicting who will play or bat where.

"Don't go there," he said. "I'll move people around this spring in different orders in the lineup and see how they perform and settle on one the last week or 10 days before the season."

Hernandez, though, is the logical choice to start on Opening Day. Not only did he lead the majors in innings pitched last season -- when he went 11-15 with a 3.60 ERA -- but he was the only starter on the club who didn't spend time on the disabled list.

Hernandez and reliever Antonio Osuna were the only pitchers not in camp Wednesday; both absences were excused by club officials. Osuna missed the workout because his father was ill and Hernandez is expected on Friday.

Robinson said Thursday's workout would be light.

"The first day, not very hard," he said. "We'll just take them through their paces. You build up to it. You don't take them out here and do like you're going to do on the 56th day you've been here."

Bowden Meets the Players

General Manager Jim Bowden met with nearly every player already in camp -- including the position players who have arrived early -- in a series of private meetings in his office.

"I got a feel for everybody," Bowden said. "It was a good day. Sometimes, those days don't go well. But I like the feel I got."

Bowden was joined by special assistant Bob Boone in the meetings. . . .

The Nationals agreed to terms on 2005 contracts with right-hander John Patterson and left-hander Joe Horgan. . . .

First baseman Nick Johnson, in town early because he played only 73 games last year battling a back injury and a broken cheekbone, pronounced himself completely healthy. "I feel great," he said. . . .

Outfielder Ryan Church has only one major league homer, but that didn't keep him from launching a 400-foot bomb that put a dent into the rental car of the crew from Comcast SportsNet. "They don't know my pop," Church said.

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