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Chico Looks Solid in Stint Out of Bullpen

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Washington Nationals pitcher Matt Chico likes his new form. But he's not ready to attribute his newfound adequacy -- in his first two appearances out of the bullpen, he has allowed one run in four innings -- to his new role.

Aware that the Nationals still must find a starter for Thursday's game, Chico is also hoping that a possible return to his old role won't undo his progress. Entering yesterday's game at Shea Stadium, Chico still hadn't been told if he'd leave the bullpen. If Washington wished to start him in the series finale against the Mets, Chico likely would be unavailable to pitch early this week in relief.

"They probably wouldn't want me to [pitch]," Chico said.

It remains to be seen, of course, if the Nationals want to reinstall Chico as their fifth starter. Manager Manny Acta, asked about Chico's latest week, refrained from grand compliments. How has he looked? "Okay," Acta said. Has he shown improvement? "Not enough yet. It's just a couple outings out of the pen."

If Chico remains in the bullpen, he'll continue to learn about a pitching approach he never encountered until this week. Before this season, he'd been only a starter. Technically, his last appearances as a reliever had come in Class AA and Class A in 2004, but those outings were scheduled before the game; in other words, only now is he arriving at the ballpark uncertain of whether he'll pitch. "All I know is a starter's mentality," Chico said.

At least for now, though, his numbers belie that. He has faced 17 batters out of the bullpen, walking one. His back-to-back two-inning stints on Friday and Saturday nights required 85 pitches and created more soreness than he'd feel after a typical start, he said.

Schroder Arrives, Again

Right-hander Chris Schroder found out late Sunday that he was joining the Nationals. For the second time this season. After two earlier seasons in which he also made major league cameos. Schroder went to New York by car from Lehigh Valley, where Columbus had been playing.

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