The Washington Times - July 15, 2011, 07:27PM

ATLANTA — Ivan Rodriguez was in the outfield early Friday afternoon at Turner Field, playing long toss with infielder Alex Cora. Then he headed inside and did something he hasn’t done since he went down with a strained right oblique one week ago: he swung a bat.

Rodriguez took between 35 and 50 swings off a tee at about 60 percent effort and reported no pain, a significant step for the veteran catcher as he attempt to navigate the tricky waters that surround oblique injuries. He still doesn’t have any plans to take regular batting practice and expects the Nationals training staff to bring him along slowly because of the nature of his injury.

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“Today I didn’t feel any (pain) when I did baseball activities,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know later how I’m goign to feel but this is the first time that I took a bat and swung. Throwing’s no problem. We’ll see what happens later on and tomorrow, I’ll see how I feel. I’m sure I’ll be fine. If it doesn’t bother me doing it, I don’t think I’m going to have any problem later.”

Rodriguez prides himself on his top physical condition and consistently points to it as one of the main reasons he’s been able to remain as a productive catcher for over 20 years in the big leagues, even at age 39.

“That’s my preparation and my work ethic that I have,” he said. “I’m glad that I have that discipline that I can keep working, even with the injury, doing my running, doing weights, doing stuff that doesn’t bother the injury. It’s a good sign.” 

– Nationals veteran utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. headed out on a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg Friday night. Hairston was leading off and playing shortstop for the Senators, just 16 days after fracturing his right wrist when he was hit with a pitch by Anaheim’s Dan Haren. 

Hairston is expected to play seven innings with Harrisburg Friday night and then nine innings on both Saturday and Sunday. At that point, the Nationals will reevaluate where he’s at and he could be activated as soon as the team’s series in Houston which starts Monday. 

The Nationals will have to decide, at that point, how to clear room for Hairston on the active roster. When he was placed on the DL, the team activated Rick Ankiel.

– Right-hander Chad Gaudin, who has been on the disabled list since April 26 with right shoulder inflammation, has been working his way back to active duty. Gaudin’s been on a rehab assignment since June 19 and his 30 days limit is approaching. The Nationals currently have him in Triple-A Syracuse working toward stretching himself out to pitching four innings.

When his rehab runs out, though, Gaudin could seemingly find himself without a spot on the active roster. Nationals manager Davey Johnson hinted today that while nothing is perfect he’s satisfied with his bullpen the way it’s set up currently and, if anything, would prefer to add a left-hander, which Gaudin is not.

The same could be said of Doug Slaten, who is a left-hander, but is not yet ready to go out on a rehab and thus, not close to returning to the Nationals active roster.

“The way we’re at now, we’re not set up even if Slaten was ready right now, we’re not set up (to add him),” Johnson said. “Though I do like to have extra left-handers in the pen, I like three left-handers in the pen especially in our division, but I don’t see, with my bullpen, that you can improve it much right now.”