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Nationals Notebook

Washouts Frustrate Robinson

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page E13

VIERA, Fla., March 26 -- Another day, and more rain for the Washington Nationals. A torrential afternoon downpour -- one that filled the dugouts at Space Coast Stadium with more than two feet of water -- cost the Nationals a Saturday night game with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the fifth game of the spring at least partially wiped out by weather. And now, with just more than a week until the regular season, it's starting to affect preparation.

"It throws you in turmoil, really," Manager Frank Robinson said. "It cuts you off of some of the time you have on the field and getting at-bats for guys and innings pitched and just being out there playing and competing. You can't recapture that. You can't get that back."

Manager Frank Robinson said Zach Day, above, likely will begin the season in the Nationals' bullpen. This spring, Day has a 3.60 ERA in 15 innings. (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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The Nationals' game Friday against Baltimore was halted in the bottom of the sixth by rain. The team had two complete washouts earlier in the spring and another game shortened to three innings.

Now, the toll is particularly being felt by the pitching staff. Pitching coach Randy St. Claire meticulously sets up his rotation and his bullpen, all based on starting the season with everyone fresh and on schedule to make their regular appearances. Zach Day, the team's fifth starter, was supposed to start Saturday against the Dodgers. Instead, he'll throw 65 or 70 pitches Sunday in a minor league game, and then return on three days' rest. Tony Armas Jr., who will start the second game of the regular season on April 6 in Philadelphia, will keep his regular turn in the rotation Sunday against the New York Mets.

"They're all pretty well set right now to be able to get to where they were going," St. Claire said. "But now, with this [rainout] cutting us short and everything, it's going to be tough."

Right-hander John Patterson, who missed a scheduled appearance because of a strained hip flexor and hasn't pitched in a game since March 15, was supposed to throw two innings Saturday. His turn was moved to Sunday. Lefty Joe Horgan and right-hander Jon Rauch also might throw Sunday. "Mother Nature's starting to get in my way now," Patterson said.

Bullpen for Day

Robinson said that even with some off days early in the regular season, he will not send Day to the minors to begin the year just to get him regular work. Therefore, Day likely will begin the year in the bullpen, which isn't ideal. "I think my first year, getting called-up, I was kind of bounced around a little bit," Day said. "I think it's definitely a tough spot." . . .

Second baseman Jose Vidro, who said he wants to play almost every day for the rest of the spring because he missed time with a hyperextended elbow, isn't in Sunday's lineup against the Mets. Vidro, who has just 21 at-bats this spring, wanted Easter off.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company