- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

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The last time anybody saw Luis Ayala throw a baseball was March 16, 2006, in Anaheim, Calif., when he walked Alex Rodriguez on six pitches in the ninth inning of Mexico’s 2-1 victory over the United States in the World Baseball Classic. Ayala exited the mound holding his right elbow and soon was lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Yesterday, in the chilly, wind-blown bullpen of the Washington Nationals’ minor league complex, the valuable reliever threw off the mound for about five minutes and looked impressive in tough conditions.

“He looked great today,” pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. “He didn’t throw any breaking balls, just fastballs and changes. He looked very good, free and easy, had great life to his pitches.”

The Nationals are going to take it real slow with one of baseball’s premier setup men. St. Claire said Ayala may not pitch in a game until late in the exhibition season, if at all.

TEMPERATURE CHECK

HOT

Here come the outfielders. Escobar, Logan, Restovich report early.

COLD

The weather. Nighttime lows dip into the 30s.

HOT

Ayala’s back. Valuable reliever throws off mound in the cold.

COLD

Fan turnout. Media still outnumber autograph seekers on Day 2.

BY THE NUMBERS

2.66 ERA for Ayala in the 2005 season.

70 Percent of baserunners Ayala stranded in the 2005 season.

OVERHEARD

“I’m telling you right now, if [Nationals bench coach] Pat Corrales can be Bobby Cox’s right hand, he can be my heart.”

— Nationals manager Manny Acta (above)

SEVEN-DAY SCHEDULE

Today: Pitchers and catchers workout, 9 a.m.

Tomorrow: Pitchers and catchers workout, 9 a.m.

Monday: Pitchers and catchers workout, 9 a.m.; position players report to camp.

Tuesday: Pitchers and catchers workout, 9 a.m.; position players take physicals.

Wednesday: Full-squad workout, 9 a.m.

Thursday: Full-squad workout, 9 a.m.

Friday: Full-squad workout, 9 a.m.

HOW TO GET TO SPACE COAST STADIUM

From Orlando/North: Take Route 528 East (Bee Line Expressway) 25 miles to I-95 South. Exit I-95 South at Fiske Boulevard (Exit 195). Proceed south on Fiske Boulevard/Stadium Parkway to the stadium. Approximate time: 45 minutes.

From Melbourne/South: Take I-95 North to Wickham Road (Exit 191) and turn left. Turn right on Lake Andrew Drive and follow to the stadium. Approximate time: 20 minutes.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Mostly cloudy, 40 degrees.

Viera: Sunny, 63 degrees.

Ken Wright

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