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Simontacchi Could Miss Next Start, Trip North

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007

VIERA, Fla., March 21 -- Right-hander Jason Simontacchi is in danger of missing his next scheduled start because of a strained muscle in his right leg, a condition that could put his spot in the Washington Nationals' rotation in jeopardy.

Manager Manny Acta said Simontacchi, who strained his right groin on the last pitch of his outing March 14 against St. Louis, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday and then start Sunday against the Atlanta Braves.

"If he doesn't make his next side, obviously it's going to push it farther" back, Acta said, "and it's going to be complicated to get him going before the season starts."

Simontacchi had all but secured a spot in the rotation despite a 5.25 ERA in three Grapefruit League appearances. General Manager Jim Bowden said he remained hopeful that Simontacchi could be ready by April 7, the team's fifth game of the regular season.

Tim Redding, a contender coming into the spring, had another poor outing Wednesday night against Atlanta, allowing three runs in the first, including a two-run homer to Andruw Jones.

"Unfortunately, the first inning was obviously a big disaster," Redding said.

Because of Simontacchi's injury, Redding will likely get another start, but he has now allowed 16 hits, 7 walks and 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings over four outings.

Roster Clarity

The club's bench and bullpen came into sharper focus Wednesday night when the contracts of infielder Ronnie Belliard and catcher-first baseman Robert Fick were purchased, essentially putting them on the team.

Left-hander Billy Traber was optioned to Class AAA Columbus, where he will serve as a reliever. "I think he can help us down the line as a left-handed specialist," Acta said. Acta said the bullpen is "pretty much locked in" with lefties Micah Bowie and Ray King.

Right-hander Josh Hall was reassigned to minor league camp. Outfielder Michael Restovich and infielder Bernie Castro were outrighted to Columbus. Because they were out of options, they must decide if they will accept the assignment.

Non-Presidential Opener

President Bush will not throw out the first pitch on Opening Day, April 2 at RFK Stadium, officials from both the Nationals and the White House said Wednesday.

"We have various amounts of contact with the people there, and we're always interested in that," Nationals President Stan Kasten said by phone. "This year, it's just not going to happen, but we hope and expect that we'll be able to do that in future years."

Pitcher of The Day Lefty Mike Bacsik pitched two scoreless innings, allowing the Nationals to come back for a 6-5 win over the Braves. Washington had a three-run ninth capped by a bases-loaded walk to Chris Snelling to drive in the winning run. Up Next vs. Astros in Kissimmee, 7 p.m.

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