Winning Effort Has Redding Feeling Great

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

LAKELAND, Fla., March 18 -- Washington Nationals right-hander Tim Redding awoke Tuesday with a throbbing headache, unable to breathe through his nose. He had very little command of his breaking pitches. But by the end of the day, he had thrown five scoreless innings in a 9-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

"I hope I feel like crap for 34 starts," Redding joked afterward.

Redding, who gave up five hits and walked one, has given up no runs in three of his four outings this spring, the only blemish a three-inning, five-run debacle on a windy day in Kissimmee. Now, even while ill, Redding said he is pitching with a goal in mind.

"The Opening Day starter hasn't been named," Redding said. "I would love to have the honor to do that. I'm throwing the ball well. I hope to keep throwing the ball well all the way to that day, and maybe force an issue that maybe I'm in consideration."

Redding is lined up to pitch the third game of the season, April 2 in Philadelphia. If the club keeps its current schedule, veteran left-hander Odalis P¿rez would pitch the March 30 opener.

Escobar Down, Cota Out

The Nationals reassigned outfielder Alex Escobar and catcher Humberto Cota to minor league camp. Cota exercised the option in his contract that allowed him to refuse the assignment and become a free agent. The move essentially means that if Johnny Estrada starts the season on the disabled list because of tendinitis in his elbow, Wil Nieves is the most likely candidate to serve as the backup.

Nieves, a defensive specialist, has been praised by Washington pitchers as a good receiver. He went 0 for 5 Tuesday to drop his average to .190.

If starter Paul Lo Duca, who is coming back from a torn meniscus, is not ready to catch regularly by Opening Night, then the Nationals could still put Jes¿s Flores, last year's backup, on the team. Nationals officials, however, will only do that if they feel Flores will play regularly -- the key, they believe, to the 23-year-old's development. . . .

First baseman Nick Johnson went 3 for 3 with a double, raising his average to .290. Dmitri Young, Johnson's competition at first base, served as the DH and went 2 for 5 with a double. Young, who has played in just five Grapefruit League games, is hitting .353. . . .

Reliever Joel Hanrahan pitched two more shutout innings, and he now hasn't been scored upon in his 10 2/3 innings over seven appearances in which he has allowed two hits, walked two and struck out 13. He got Detroit's Gary Sheffield swinging at a slider Tuesday. . . .

The Nationals have their only day off of the spring Wednesday.

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