Nationals Notebook

Hernandez Isn't Quite There Yet

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 30, 2006

VERO BEACH, Fla., March 29 -- Livan Hernandez's health isn't "perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect," he said after his final start of the spring. But there is no question that even after offseason knee surgery, the Washington Nationals' right-hander is ready to pitch the season opener Monday in New York against the Mets.

"I'm not 100 percent," Hernandez said. "One hundred percent in my arm. My knee is not perfect. . . . Ninety-nine percent."

Last year, when he went 15-10 with a 3.98 ERA, Hernandez battled pain in his right knee for most of the season, and he adjusted. Likewise, he is adjusting now as he prepares for the season, spending time strengthening the knee in the weight room.

"It's not going to be easy to go out there and do a lot of stuff and [get] my body ready for the Opening Day," Hernandez said.

Wednesday, he threw six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing seven hits and two runs, only one of them earned, while walking two and striking out five. He finished the spring with a 1.80 ERA, but he still limps some when covering first base, though he did so effectively all spring.

Manager Frank Robinson said he didn't have any concerns about Hernandez. "He'll get the job done," Robinson said.

Hernandez will be followed in the rotation by John Patterson, Pedro Astacio, Ramon Ortiz and Tony Armas Jr.

Majewski on the Rebound

Reliever Gary Majewski finally has cleared the upper respiratory ailment that dogged him for more than a week, sapping his strength and contributing to a horrendous start to the spring, when he gave up 11 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings. Wednesday, though, he got back on track by throwing a scoreless inning in which he allowed a single.

"My energy's back," he said. He is scheduled to throw again on Thursday against the Atlanta Braves -- his first back-to-back appearances of the spring -- and then might pitch once in the home-and-home weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles up north.

"I need to pitch that much to get ready, considering the role I'm going to be in," Majewski said. With Luis Ayala's season-ending elbow injury, Majewski likely will be the chief set-up man for closer Chad Cordero, and could be in line for 75 or 80 appearances. . . .

Right-hander Jon Rauch, one of the pleasant surprises of the spring, allowed the tying run in the bottom of the ninth and then a game-winning homer to Sergio Garcia leading off the 10th, pushing his spring ERA up to 5.87. . . .

The club will make more cuts Thursday, though General Manager Jim Bowden said he will bring more than 25 players north for the games in Washington and Baltimore so Robinson can rest regulars in preparation for the season. The Nationals will work out in New York on Sunday morning.

By the Numbers 20 Losses for the Nationals this spring, the most of any National League team Up Next vs. Braves in Viera, 1 p.m.

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