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NATIONALS NOTEBOOK

Cordero Back, But His Outing Is 'Concerning'

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 14, 2008

Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero returned from his season-long bout with right shoulder tendinitis in yesterday's 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves, but even though he said his arm felt fine, his fastball lacked its usual zip.

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Cordero's fastball usually registers between 88 and 91 mph. But in the two-thirds of an inning he pitched yesterday, he hit 87 only three times on the scoreboard radar gun, and his fastball was generally 84-86 mph.

"To me, that's concerning," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "That's not him."

Cordero caught Brayan Peña looking at an 85-mph fastball to start the inning, and got Kelly Johnson to fly out. He hit 87 three times against Yunel Escobar before walking him.

"My arm felt good," Cordero said. "There's no problems with it."

Peña's Debut Forgettable

As expected, outfielder Wily Mo Peña was activated before yesterday's game, and his season debut was about as bad as possible: 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and a grounded-into-double play with the bases loaded -- and a key error in the eighth, in which he dropped a fly ball. Still, he said he was ready to return from his strained oblique muscle.

"He's a high strikeout guy, obviously," Manager Manny Acta said. "I did feel a lot better seeing him at the plate with the bases loaded twice."

The Nationals thus optioned catcher Jesús Flores to Class AAA Columbus. Flores, 23, had expected to go to the minors when backup catcher Johnny Estrada healed, but the club altered its original plan, which was to send him to Class AA Harrisburg.

The reason, General Manager Jim Bowden and Acta said, is twofold: Flores is more developed now than the club expected, and at Columbus, he'll get to work with some of the best pitching prospects in the organization, including right-hander Collin Balester.

"He might as well be getting used to them right now, because his time to the big leagues will be as quick as theirs is," Bowden said.

When asked if he needed more time in the minors, Flores said, "For me, personally, I don't think so."

No Decision Yet on Hill

Right-hander Shawn Hill threw six innings for Columbus at Charlotte yesterday, allowing six runs, five of them earned. Bowden, though, said the club's reports were positive.

"He pitched well," Bowden said. "We were pleased with it. . . . Obviously, we would've liked better results."

Bowden said there has been no decision when Hill, out all season with right forearm soreness, will pitch in the majors. But if the club is pleased with Hill's progress, he could appear either Friday or Saturday in Florida.


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