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Chico Hurts His Chances

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 10, 2007

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 9 -- For pitcher Matt Chico, this otherwise meaningless spring training game mattered.

Washington Nationals Manager Manny Acta made that clear before Friday's 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, declaring Chico's second start against a loaded lineup a necessary test in his quest to jump from Class AA to the Opening Day lineup.

Chico, a 23-year-old left-hander acquired in the Livan Hernandez trade last August, did not ace the day's exam. He allowed four runs on six hits in 2 1/3 innings with one walk -- and that came with the bases loaded during three-run third.

"I made some mistakes I wish I could take back," Chico said. "Overall, I learned a lot."

Chico struck out Brian Roberts to start the game but finished with considerably less flourish, perhaps clouding his status with the team. He struggled to throw strikes in the third, when he allowed a double, three singles and the run-scoring walk to Nick Markakis.

"I got a little out of sync," he said. "Things just didn't go right for me."

There was, however, a bright spot: In the midst of Baltimore's rally, Chico struck out cleanup hitter Miguel Tejada on a slider, a pitch Chico said he began throwing only last year.

Shuey Has a Setback

Veteran pitcher Paul Shuey, 36, suffered a right Achilles' tendon strain while covering home plate in the seventh inning today and likely will be out at least two weeks, Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo said. Shuey, who wore a large brace on his right foot after the game, will undergo an MRI exam Saturday morning.

"It's not good," Shuey said. "I'm in spring training trying to earn a job. Obviously, if I've got 15 days out, it's not going to work out too well. I've got a history of injuries; it's not too fun."

Shuey, signed to a minor league contract this February, has not pitched since April 2005, when he appeared in a Class AA game. He retired that month because of hip problems, but after surgery decided to try to return and worked out for Orioles officials in January. He has made 12 trips to the disabled list during his nine-year career.

"The main thing is, it's not severe," Perlozzo said. "If it's a couple of weeks, we'll take that gladly. . . . He's somebody that can help us out."

Easy Does It for Wright

Orioles starter Jaret Wright was allowed a little more leeway today than in his first start. Instead of being yanked after one scoreless inning, he was yanked after two.

Wary of Wright's history of arm troubles, the Orioles have taken things slowly with the pitcher they acquired in the offseason from the Yankees and are depending upon to stabilize their rotation.

Against Washington, Wright allowed just one hit and no runs in two innings. He struck out three. Wright, 31, said he threw more offspeed pitches than he did in his first start and was pleased with the outing.

"After what I've been through . . . slower's better than quicker," he said.

Said Perlozzo: "The main thing is that Jaret's ready to go when the bell rings . . . . I think he knows himself better than we do."

Huff Stays Hot

Aubrey Huff, signed by the Orioles as a free agent in January, went 2 for 3, including a two-run single in the third inning, raising his spring batting average to .529. Huff, however, mishandled a ground ball at first base in the third inning for an error. Markakis, who went 1 for 2, raised his average to .524.

Up Next vs. Cardinals at Fort Lauderdale, 1 p.m.

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