The Washington Times - July 19, 2013, 05:12PM

A familiar name is missing as the Nationals start the season’s second half Friday at broiler-like Nationals Park against the Dodgers.

Adam LaRoche is sidelined because of a bad case of the flu. Scuffling utilityman Chad Tracy — 13-for-83 this season — starts in place of LaRoche at first base and hits seventh.

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Davey Johnson joked that he didn’t want to speak with LaRoche, when he made a brief appearance in the clubhouse, to avoid contracting the illness. The manager hoped LaRoche will be able to return to the lineup Saturday.

LaRoche isn’t the only dinged-up National:

— Jordan Zimmermann wasn’t able to pitch in the All-Star game because of a stiff neck. The problem hasn’t abated, but he doesn’t believe it’s serious enough to miss Sunday afternoon’s scheduled start. He’s on anti-inflammatories and the stiffness recedes as the day goes on.

“I think the break is definitely going to help,” Zimmermann said.

— Less positive news surrounded fellow starter Ross Detwiler, on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained lower back. He played catch on flat ground during Thursday’s off-day workout, but reported soreness following the session. That pushed back being able to throw off a mound at least a day. Johnson wasn’t optimistic about the left-hander returning in time to take his usual turn in the rotation Tuesday.

— Reliever Ryan Mattheus is three games into his minor-league rehabilitation assignment as he recovers from the broken pitching hand he suffered in May. Over those three games with three different affiliates, Mattheus allowed five hits, two runs and struck out three in four innings. Johnson expects Mattheus, on the 60-day disabled list, to need at least four more games before he’s ready to return.

In other news, former Nationals reliever Henry Rodriguez, now in the Cubs organization, cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A Iowa. The control problems that ended the hard-thrower’s time with the Nationals earlier this year followed him to the Cubs, where he surrendered six hits, four walks and hit a batter in five games before being designated for assignment.

— The heat index stood at 106 degrees as the Nationals took batting practice Friday. That weather isn’t helping center field. After Paul McCartney’s concert at Nationals Park on July 12, a stage-shaped sprawl of brown, ragged grass remains.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Carl Crawford, LF
Yasiel Puig, RF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Andre Ethier, CF
A.J. Ellis, C
Juan Uribe, 3B
Mark Ellis, 2B
Ricky Nolasco, RHP

Washington Nationals
Denard Span, CF
Anthony Rendon, 2B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Bryce Harper, LF
Jayson Werth, RF
Ian Desmond, SS
Chad Tracy, 1B
Wilson Ramos, C
Stephen Strasburg, RHP