Nationals Notebook

Acta Has No Worries About His Bullpen

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

JUPITER, Fla., March 25 -- When Manny Acta arrived at spring training, he had concerns about who would win jobs at first base, second base and in the starting rotation. He did not, however, worry about his bullpen.

"I don't have to worry about those guys," he said earlier this spring.

With only three exhibition games to go, Acta looks like he took the right course. Right-hander Joel Hanrahan has developed into what Acta called "the surprise of spring," throwing 12 scoreless innings while striking out 14.

But throughout the bullpen, the numbers are impressive. The seven members who are likely to comprise the group -- right-handers Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, Luis Ayala, Sa¿l Rivera, Jes¿s Colome and Hanrahan, and left-hander Ray King -- have posted a combined ERA of 1.38 over 58 2/3 innings. Only Cordero has given up as many as three earned runs.

Thus, the one candidate who will likely be optioned to Class AAA Columbus is right-hander Chris Schroder, who pitched a scoreless inning in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Schroder's ERA is 4.09 -- not horrible by most standards, but abysmal for the Nationals' bullpen.

Pe¿a's Recuperation

Acta said left fielder Wily Mo Pe¿a, on the disabled list because of a severely strained oblique muscle suffered March 12, might not need as long as expected to recover. The club originally estimated he would need at least four weeks to mend.

"He's recovering very well," Acta said. "He's right on pace. The four to six weeks, who knows? Maybe he can turn it into three to five, or a legit four. . . . He's doing better than expected."

Elijah Dukes, who will replace Pe¿a for the start of the season, rested his strained right hamstring Tuesday, and Acta said Dukes may have Wednesday off as well. "I just want to make sure that now, with Wily Mo down, that we don't want to risk anything with [Dukes] because we want to get him out there just about every day," Acta said. Dukes is hitting .250 in 15 games. . . .

A scheduled workout for Dominican shortstop Alvaro Aristy that was supposed to take place Tuesday was postponed because Aristy missed his flight. . . .

Catcher Paul Lo Duca and first baseman Dmitri Young each had at-bats in a minor league game in Viera. Though Young, who has battled a strained back, has appeared in only seven games and has 23 at-bats, Acta said the club is not considering placing him on the disabled list. . . . Acta said right-hander Tim Redding, who suffered back spasms in a start on Sunday, played catch Tuesday and "feels much better." Redding will almost certainly be able to make his final preseason start, scheduled for Friday in a minor league game.

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