Nationals Notebook

Castilla Ready for Live Pitching

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

VERO BEACH, Fla., March 28 -- Washington Nationals third baseman Vinny Castilla, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on March 18 and hasn't played since, will play in intrasquad games at minor league camp beginning Tuesday in an effort to prepare for the season opener, which is now a week away.

"I feel much better," Castilla said Monday. "I just need to get at-bats. They don't want me to go in the field yet, but I need to swing."

General Manager Jim Bowden said Castilla will lead off every inning of the intrasquad games so that he can face live pitching, perhaps getting seven or eight at-bats a day. Castilla has taken batting practice several times over the past week.

"His bat speed's really started to improve as the knee has started to improve," Bowden said. "Without his knee, he's not as valuable to us. He's got to have the knee right. . . . We'll know in the next couple days and deal with it at that time."

If Castilla, 37, plays in the minor league games without incident, he could start Thursday in the Nationals' game against Florida. That would give him four potential starts before the opener, April 4 in Philadelphia. Castilla, who led the National League in RBI last season with Colorado, has just two hits in 20 at-bats this spring.

Bowden Backs Robinson

A day after Manager Frank Robinson spoke with the team behind closed doors about its lack of effort over the past week, Bowden said Robinson did the right thing.

"They've been very lethargic for a week," Bowden said. "It's been a long spring. It's hot. We've had rainouts. It's frustrating. We understand that. But you know what? Frank aired them out after the game yesterday, and rightfully so. It's time to step up and get going, and I have confidence that they will." . . .

The Nationals acquired first baseman Carlos Torres from the Boston Red Sox as the player to be named in a previous deal that sent infielder Alejandro Machado to Boston. Torres, 20, had an .834 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in the Gulf Coast League last year. . . .

The team sent shortstop Ian Desmond, who proved himself one of the organization's top prospects during spring training, to Class A Savannah.

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