- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Four years of uncertainty and close calls have left Frank Robinson skeptical of any good news to come out of Washington or Major League Baseball headquarters.

So even though the Nationals manager was encouraged Sunday night to hear that MLB had signed off on the city council’s revised ballpark lease, he said he’ll save his real excitement for the day his club’s new owner is named.

“This is another step, and a very important step, in ownership being named,” Robinson said yesterday before the Nationals’ exhibition game against the Houston Astros. “It was just a matter of when this thing was going to get done. That’s the key right there. … You want to get ownership named, so you can get the new ballpark, so you can feel what I call ‘whole’ as a team and as a franchise.”

Sunday night’s news was greeted warmly by Washington’s players, particularly those who have endured through the franchise’s years of uncertainty.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be here by the time they build the stadium, but obviously that’s a great step,” said second baseman Jose Vidro, the organization’s longest-tenured player. “This ball club is going forward, and that’s very good news.”

Fick update

Utilityman Robert Fick had surgery yesterday in Cincinnati to remove three bone chips in his right elbow. His prognosis for recovery is better than originally expected.

Club officials said Fick will rejoin the team today in Viera and should be able to resume hitting and throwing in a week. That would put him well on track to be ready by Opening Day, a target date that had been somewhat in doubt when Fick’s condition was discovered.

Fick’s status is particularly important because it could have a domino effect on several other players battling for roster spots. The versatile veteran can catch, play first base, third base and some outfield. If he’s not ready by April 3, the Nationals could be forced to rethink the makeup of their bench.

“If he’s not on the ball club, you may have to carry an extra guy,” Robinson said. “So he makes a big difference in three different areas: catching, infielder or outfielder and a pitcher. He’s going to affect the makeup of this ball club.”

Extra bases

Vidro’s return from two years of knee injuries reached an important stage yesterday when he played in his third straight game of the spring and pronounced himself healthy. He said his knee feels fine, but he’s still working on getting into baseball shape, which was evident when he was slow trying to turn a couple of double plays against the Astros.

“It’s not the same practicing as it is playing every day,” he said. “That’s the next step now. … I’ve got to get my body in game shape. I’d like to be able to play nine innings. But I’m excited, because the first three games went very, very good.”

Vidro will take today off but is expected back in the lineup tomorrow. …

Right-hander Pedro Astacio is scheduled to make his first start of the spring Thursday in a split-squad game against the Cleveland Indians in Winter Haven, Fla. Staff ace Livan Hernandez will also make his spring debut that afternoon in the Nationals’ other game against the Florida Marlins in Viera.

Staff writer Ken Wright contributed to this article.

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