Nationals Notebook

Peña's Status In Doubt After Muscle Strain

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 14, 2008

VIERA, Fla., March 13 -- Washington Nationals left fielder Wily Mo Peña strained his left oblique muscle while taking batting practice Wednesday, an injury that could put his status for Opening Night in doubt.

The Nationals are listing Peña as day-to-day. Oblique muscles, though, are notoriously problematic for hitters, and club officials were preparing for the possibility that Peña could be out as many as six weeks -- which would keep him out of the lineup until the third week of April.

Pe¿a said he strained the muscle after he had taken three clean swings.

"I hit number four, I feel like it grabbed me a little bit," Peña said. "I was like, 'Damn, what was that?' So when I hit the last one, it really got me. Then I just had to put the bat down and cry. It was hurt."

There is no timetable for Peña to swing again.

"They said we just have to take it slow now, because they don't want to push it," Peña said.

The Nationals acquired Peña in a trade with Boston last August, and they intend to allow the 26-year-old to play every day. In 37 games with Washington after the trade, Peña hit .293 with a .352 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage, well above his career numbers of .259, .316 and .472, respectively.

Elijah Dukes would likely be the starter in left in Peña isn't ready for the opener.

Young Gets Two Hits

Dmitri Young went 2 for 3 with a walk in his first Grapefruit League game, a 2-1 loss to Florida on Thursday night. Young, who served as the designated hitter, had missed two weeks with a strained left side. Manager Manny Acta said Young would play in the field for the first time Friday against Cleveland. . . .

Catcher Paul Lo Duca singled twice off prospect Garrett Mock in a minor league game Thursday. Lo Duca's left knee, on which he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January, has passed all necessary tests. He is scheduled to catch three innings Saturday.

"Maybe this knee [injury] was a blessing in disguise," Lo Duca said. "My legs feel strong." . . .

Right-hander Shawn Hill, out with forearm soreness, played long toss again Thursday, will do so again Friday, and is slated to throw off a mound Saturday. . . .

Left-hander Odalis P¿rez is slated to make his first appearance in a major league game Saturday. . . . Acta held third baseman Ryan Zimmerman out of the lineup with tightness in his right hip flexor, but said it was a precaution. Zimmerman was adamant that he could have played, but he will likely rest until Saturday.

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