Washington Nationals center fielder Brad Wilkerson has played through so much pain all year long -- in his right forearm and left hamstring, and recently a nagging left shoulder ache has lingered for more than a month -- that he almost looks like a mummy because of the giant ice wraps draped all over his body after each game. On Friday, he got a shot in the shoulder, hoping it would alleviate some of the soreness.

Wilkerson didn't play yesterday, despite the fact that he had one of his most productive games of the year with a home run and three walks the night before.

The shot and the day off had been planned in advance, back when the Nationals thought left-hander Mark Mulder would start yesterday for the St. Louis Cardinals. The team thought Wilkerson, a left-handed batter, would play Friday, rest against Mulder and return to the lineup today against right-hander Jason Marquis.

Then came word that Mulder's shoulder was stiff and sore and he would not pitch yesterday, that Marquis was replacing him, and that Mulder would probably pitch today. So much for the best-laid plans.

Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said he did not think the day off would kill any of Wilkerson's momentum from Friday night's game. Robinson also wanted to get the recently recalled Marlon Byrd into the lineup. Part of the reason Byrd slumped so much before his demotion to Class AAA New Orleans in July is that he wasn't playing enough and thus didn't build any continuity in his at-bats.

Armas to Return This Week

The Nationals are planning to give pitcher Tony Armas Jr. the next open spot in the rotation, which would be Thursday night in Atlanta. Armas will miss today's start because of soreness in his right shoulder. The hope is he will be healthy enough to start later in the week and thus keep the Nationals from having to juggle their rotation too much. General Manager Jim Bowden has already said Armas's problem is not serious enough to put him on the disabled list. John Halama is scheduled to pitch today in his place.