Tough Roster Decisions Await Acta

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 27, 2008

A day after backup catcher Wil Nieves won a game with his first major league home run, Paul Lo Duca, the Washington Nationals' starting catcher, took batting practice for the first time since he was hit by a pitch on his right hand April 13. With Lo Duca feeling better and headed for a rehabilitation assignment Monday, the Nationals will face the first in a series of decisions about their roster.

"Absolutely, we have to find spots for those guys," Manager Manny Acta said. "We're going to have to make tough decisions down the road."

In order to keep Nieves, who has drawn raves for his defense and was hitting .350 before last night's game against the Chicago Cubs, the Nationals would have to carry three catchers -- Nieves, Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada. While that seems unlikely, Acta said, "There is always a possibility of everything."

The Nationals will also have to make a decision when outfielder Elijah Dukes, who went 0 for 2 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch yesterday for Class A Potomac, recovers from his strained right hamstring. Rob Mackowiak is just 1 for 16 thus far and could be a candidate to lose his roster spot. And eventually, first baseman Dmitri Young will return from his sprained lower back, though that date is further away.

"I'm not pushing it," Young said yesterday. "I'm not going out there till I'm 100 percent."

Lo Duca said he will start a rehab stint with Potomac Monday, and Acta said it will likely only take him three or four games to get ready.

"I'm ready to get back on the field and start playing," Lo Duca said. "It's a little boring on the bench."

Peña Gets His Ring

Wily Mo Peña, acquired in a trade with Boston last August, received his World Series ring from the Red Sox in the mail yesterday. The Sox had invited him to their ring ceremony earlier in the month, when Peña was on the disabled list, but he opted to stay in Viera, Fla., to recover from a strained oblique muscle.

"I got a ring," Peña said, smiling. "Hopefully, we get one here soon."

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