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King Could Boost Staff, Limit Bench

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

PHILADELPHIA, April 24 -- Washington Nationals left-hander Ray King threw 20 pitches in a simulated game, and because all went well, there is some thought that King will be able to return from his bout with shoulder tendinitis as soon as he is able to come off the disabled list on Friday.

While that is good news for King, a veteran who has only once before spent time on the disabled list, it presents an interesting list of questions for the Nationals' front office and Manager Manny Acta. One out-of-the-box thought: Bring King back, but don't demote a reliever, leaving the team with a 13-man pitching staff. The man endorsing that thought: General Manager Jim Bowden.

"I like having a lot of pitching, the way it's played out," Bowden said Tuesday.

Bowden's current problem in having a 13-man staff -- meaning an eight-man bullpen -- is that Acta is hesitant to make such a leap.

"I'm taking a look at it," Acta said. "But it would really just tie my hands a lot when it comes down to pinch-hitting and stuff."

The Nationals' bench currently consists of five players: catcher Jesus Flores, utility player Robert Fick, infielders D'Angelo Jimenez and Josh Wilson, and outfielder Michael Restovich (though Restovich, a right-handed hitter, started Tuesday against Philadelphia lefty Jamie Moyer). Even if the Nationals keep the bench intact for now, it will change next week if shortstop Cristian Guzman and center fielder Nook Logan come back from injuries, as expected.

In that case, Jimenez and Restovich are the most likely candidates to be replaced.

Bowden said the team would wait to see how King felt before it had a better idea of exactly when he would return. King was more clear.

"Get my oil changed, and I'm ready to go," King said.

If a pitcher is sent to the minors, right-handers Saul Rivera and Ryan Wagner might be candidates. Wagner has a 6.00 ERA and a .300 opponents' batting average after giving up three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings Saturday at Florida.

"I feel like I've thrown the ball really well," Wagner said. "It's just a matter of going out there and evening out the numbers a little bit."

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