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Labrum tear has Williams back on DL

Jerome Williams was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday after an MRI revealed the Washington Nationals right-hander has a slight labrum tear in his throwing shoulder. Then the club made an unconventional choice to replace him in the rotation: Micah Bowie.

Williams, who hurt himself making a pitch to Atlanta Braves slugger Andruw Jones in the fourth inning of Tuesday's loss at RFK Stadium, will be shut down for at least 10 to 14 days and won't be allowed to start throwing again until his shoulder shows no more symptoms of injury.

The way the 25-year-old said he felt yesterday, it doesn't sound like he'll be cleared to return anytime soon.

"Sore. Just sore. Just sore," he said. "I woke up this morning and it was sore. Went to the doctor ... sore."

Williams, who had just returned from the DL with a sprained left ankle, has never had shoulder trouble before, and he believes the injury occurred only on that one pitch. Team doctor Ben Shaffer said it's possible he could return strong with rest but acknowledged surgery eventually could be required.

Williams' next scheduled start was scheduled for Sunday, and the Nationals appeared to have a viable replacement when they purchased the contract of Billy Traber from Class AAA Columbus. The left-hander was 1-2 with a 2.60 ERA in 10 appearances (two starts) with the Clippers and started eight games for Washington last season. But manager Manny Acta felt Traber would be more effective in his bullpen and named veteran lefty Bowie as his Sunday starter instead.

Bowie, 32, hasn't started a major league game since Sept. 29, 1999, with the Chicago Cubs, but he threw 50 pitches in relief Tuesday night and can be stretched to 70 or 75 pitches when he faces the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.

"You get a chance to take the ball and start a game -- that's an awesome thing," Bowie said. "For me as a pitcher, it's something I loved doing for most of my career, and I think it's something you always strive for."

Patterson resumes throwing

John Patterson, on the DL with a sore right elbow and biceps, played catch for the first time and was encouraged by how well he felt. The Nationals' Opening Day starter threw from 75 feet on flat ground and cut loose several times. He'll do the same today and hopes to extend up to 120 feet by next week.

"It was exciting to pick up a ball again," said Patterson, who last pitched May 5. "I've been pacing around here waiting for today, trying to let the soreness go away, the stiffness go away."

Shaffer said all the problems stem from irritation in Patterson's radial nerve, which extends all the way from his neck down through his forearm.

There remains no official timetable on Patterson's return, but he hopes he could be back on a major league mound sometime next month.

Injury updates

Shaffer said Nick Johnson's broken right femur has completely healed and the first baseman simply needs to build up his strength and endurance now before he can return to major league action. Johnson, who was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to make room for Traber on the roster, continues to take ground balls and is hitting off a tee. ...

Right-hander Shawn Hill, on the DL with a left shoulder strain, could begin throwing next week. Reliever Luis Ayala, recovering from major elbow surgery, threw 16 pitches at extended spring training and could be ready to return within a month. Left-hander Mike O'Connor (elbow surgery) is throwing live bullpen sessions in Viera, Fla., and could get into games in mid-June.

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