Nationals Notebook

Nationals Notebook: Second Baseman Hernandez Leaves With Leg Injury

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009

VIERA, Fla., March 25 -- Second baseman Anderson Hernandez left Wednesday's game with a left leg injury, leaving a hole in the middle of Washington's infield. In a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves, Hernandez strained his left hamstring, jeopardizing his chance to open the season as the starter. The 26-year-old will be reevaluated today.

"No timetable," Manager Manny Acta said.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Hernandez hit a ground ball, and two-thirds of the way down the line his sprint turned into a limp and he was unable to put weight onto his left leg. Trainer Lee Kuntz and first base coach Marquis Grissom helped him off the field.

Hernandez has enjoyed a strong spring, bringing a .308 average into Wednesday's game. In the early innings against Atlanta, he made two strong defensive plays. Acquired on Aug. 20, 2008, in a trade with the New York Mets, Hernandez was unheralded at the time, but he hit .333 in the season's last month, convincing Washington that he deserved a starting job.

If Hernandez is out when the season begins, the Nationals will count on Ronnie Belliard, still recovering from a left ankle sprain. If Hernandez begins the season on the disabled list, the team could find room for utility infielder Kory Casto or shortstop Alberto Gonzalez.

Four-Man Rotation to Start

Acta said that the team will open the season with a four-man rotation, leaving a spot open for an extra position player. Because of early off days, Washington won't need a fifth starter until April 19.

"I'm not going to say if it's gonna be a catcher or an outfielder or an infielder," Acta said.

Tavarez Goes for Visa

Reliever Julian Tavarez departed for the Dominican Republic to pick up his work visa, opening the door for him to participate in exhibition games. He is expected to rejoin the team on Friday. . . .

Reliever Terrell Young, a Rule 5 draft pick, has shoulder soreness and underwent an MRI exam. . . .

Catcher Jesús Flores, who has not appeared in a game since Feb. 28 because of a right elbow sprain, will return to the lineup on Saturday against the Houston Astros.

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