While his Washington Nationals teammates were heading south to face the Atlanta Braves, pitcher Ryan Drese was preparing to head west to face the possibility of surgery on his right shoulder -- the latest bit of discouraging news for a pitching staff running perilously short on healthy arms.

Drese, who has a slight tear in his labrum, will be seen today in Los Angeles by noted orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum, and Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said surgery is a "good possibility."

"We all knew there was a reason why he went from 14 wins [in 2004] to what he did this year," Bowden said of Drese, who is 3-6 with a 4.98 ERA since joining Washington.

The news about Drese comes at a time when the Nationals are having trouble piecing together both a rotation and a bullpen.

Yesterday, the team had to use long reliever John Halama to start in place of Drese, and was also without relievers Luis Ayala and Joey Eischen. Ayala has tendinitis in his elbow and probably will be out until Thursday, while Eischen is day-to-day after smashing his left thumb while closing a window at his apartment Friday night.

"We're trying to survive," Bowden said. "The whole bullpen is spent. We just don't have any pitching."

Bowden would like to call up shortstop-third baseman prospect Ryan Zimmerman to help out the team's ailing offense, but admitted the team's pitching shortage probably will prevent him from doing so before Sept. 1, when teams can expand their rosters.

"We're looking at September 1" to bring in reinforcements, Manager Frank Robinson said. "But the season might be over by then. . . . We need healthy bodies right now."

Vidro Gets a Rest

Robinson gave second baseman Jose Vidro yesterday off, saying Vidro is "out of sync" at the plate. Vidro was 2 for 21 on the homestand and is batting just .247 since coming off the disabled list on July 5.

"He's not even close to being what he's capable of being when he's healthy," Robinson said. "He needs a day off. He's hurting."

Jamey Carroll filled in at second base, batting second.