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Bush to Toss First Pitch on Opening Day

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 16, 2008

VIERA, Fla., March 15 -- Mark Lerner, one of the owners of the Washington Nationals, said Saturday that "unless there's a national crisis," President Bush has agreed to throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the Nationals open their new ballpark March 30 in a nationally televised game against the Atlanta Braves.

"He's been warming up since December, I understand," Lerner said. "He's very excited about it."

Bush also threw out the first pitch when baseball returned to Washington on April 14, 2005, at RFK Stadium. He has since attended three other Nationals games, and the club is 2-2 when he is there. Vice President Cheney threw out the first pitch in 2006.

Lerner and team president Stan Kasten said they expect Nationals Park to be ready for the opener, but crews will be working until the last minute. The 41,222-seat park will host a college game between George Washington and Saint Joseph's next Saturday, when between 2,500 and 5,000 people are expected to attend. The club expects perhaps 25,000 full- and partial-season ticket holders for an exhibition game between the Nationals and Baltimore Orioles March 29. No single-game tickets will be sold for that dry run.

Hip Still Bothering Zimmerman

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has not played since Tuesday, when he experienced tightness in his right hip flexor. Manager Manny Acta originally said Zimmerman would play Saturday, but he changed his mind. Zimmerman now won't play until Monday.

"It's playable, but we don't want to take any chances," Acta said. . . .

Right-hander Shawn Hill, still working through soreness in his forearm, had a successful bullpen session Saturday. His sinker had its normal action, though he wasn't throwing from the full windup with 100 percent effort.

"His ball was firm," said Wil Nieves, who caught the session. "He was keeping it low. He surprised me because he hadn't pitched for so long. The sinker was right there." . . .

Catcher Paul Lo Duca caught three innings of a minor league game and went 0 for 3. . . .

The club optioned infielder Kory Casto to Class AAA Columbus, where he will be the regular third baseman, and reassigned right-hander Steven Shell and lefty Arnie Mu┬┐oz to minor league camp.

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