- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2005

VIERA, Fla. — Jose Vidro said he plans to be in the starting lineup Wednesday for the Washington Nationals’ exhibition opener, the All-Star second baseman’s first game action since undergoing knee surgery last September.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Vidro said when asked if he expects to play against the New York Mets. “I talk to [manager Frank Robinson] every day, and I feel fine. If nothing changes, then I’ll definitely be playing next week.”

The Nationals have shown caution this spring with Vidro, who played with tendinitis in his right knee for two seasons before finally undergoing arthroscopic surgery. Robinson has said he doesn’t want to push the 30-year-old too hard, and that Vidro likely won’t see considerable playing time during the early portion of the exhibition schedule.

Robinson hadn’t decided yesterday whether Vidro will play a little bit each day or take multiple games off a week.

“It depends on what the medical staff tells me where he is at the time, and what he tells me he’d like to do,” Robinson said.

“If he tells me he wants to play a couple of innings starting the first couple of exhibition games just to get the feel of things, fine. If he tells me he’d like to play every other game the first week or so, that’s fine. Whatever he tells me and the medical staff tells me, I leave it up to the player in this situation out of respect for him.”

Osuna plays catch-up

Right-handed reliever Antonio Osuna is scheduled to participate in his first workout with the Nationals today after arriving from his home in Mexico, where he was tending to his ill father.

Osuna had been excused by the club for the last week, but his absence was beginning to show.

Washington envisions Osuna, signed to a one-year, $800,000 deal, as a set-up man to closers Chad Cordero and Luis Ayala. It likely will be a week or two, though, before Osuna is game-ready.

“He’s behind,” Robinson said. “He’s going to have to come along. I have to find out if he played winter ball or not. But he still has to go through the paces first.”

Osuna pitched this winter for Mochis of the Mexican League, posting a 2.45 ERA with four saves in 11 appearances.

Dream for Desmond

Imagine Ian Desmond’s surprise when the 19-year-old shortstop arrived at camp this week and found his locker right next to three-time All-Star Carlos Baerga’s.

“It’s crazy. Look at who I’ve got sitting next to me, it’s Carlos Baerga,” said Desmond, the Expos’ third-round pick in last year’s draft. “It’s not every day you get an opportunity for something like that. It’s just a great experience.”

Though Desmond is years away from cracking the Nationals’ roster — he hit .228 in 59 games between rookie and low-Class A ball last season — the club invited him to spring training because it was short on middle infielders.

He plans to make the most of the opportunity.

“You’ve got Barry Larkin in the front office, you’ve got [Cristian] Guzman here, you’ve got Vidro,” Desmond said. “Anything I can learn from those guys is going to help me down the road, no doubt.”

Extra bases

Left-hander Joey Eischen returned to practice after missing several days with the bug that’s been circulating around the clubhouse. But right-hander Jon Rauch had to take the day off after falling ill. …

The Nationals came to terms with Ayala on a 2005 contract, leaving only two remaining players on the 40-man roster unsigned: right-hander Zach Day and infielder Henry Mateo.

Staff writer Ken Wright contributed to this article.

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