- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Right-handed starter Jason Bergmann complained earlier this week about tightness in his right elbow and could miss his scheduled start tomorrow night against the Baltimore Orioles.

An MRI taken yesterday on Bergmann’s elbow showed some fluid but came back negative. He will be listed as day-to-day but is not expected to go on the disabled list.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Bergmann said last night by phone. “If there’s nothing [today], I am starting [tomorrow].”

He said his elbow was stiff and sore after waking up Tuesday. Bergmann started Monday night against the Braves and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before allowing a home run by Atlanta’s Brian McCann. He finished the inning and picked up his first big league win since 2005.

Bergmann has been, along with Shawn Hill, one of the Nationals’ most reliable starters this season despite his misleading 1-3 record. He has a 2.76 ERA in eight starts, his 42 strikeouts pace the Nationals, and hitters’ .167 batting average against him is the best in the majors.

“The more important thing is it is a long season,” Bergmann said. “I just want to make sure everything is healthy with me. I don’t want to go on the DL for anything. I’ve never been on the DL for any arm problem before.”

Bullpen comes up big

Although the Nationals’ starting pitching has been a pleasant surprise this season, the recent work by the bullpen also has played a large part in the team’s recent surge.

Since Levale Speigner entered the game Saturday after a 2-hour, 51-minute rain delay and yielded two runs against the Florida Marlins, the bullpen has given up one run in 232/3 innings after three scoreless innings yesterday in a 4-3 win against the Atlanta Braves.

“It is a solid bullpen. We can do some matchups,” manager Manny Acta said. “We’ve got a couple guys with power arms that everyone wants with Winston [Abreu] and [Jesus] Colome. They can get it up there in the mid-90s, then we have the other guys who can spot the ball.”

It is a reworked group in part because of injuries in the rotation. With John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Jerome Williams on the disabled list, Acta has had to look to his bullpen for replacements. Speigner started Wednesday against the Braves, and Micah Bowie will get the nod Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Billy Traber, Saul Rivera and Abreu did not start the season in Washington. That trio will be relied upon even more in coming days because Speigner and Bowie will not be expected to go deep into games.

Part of this run came with closer Chad Cordero unavailable. He was placed on bereavement leave to spend time with his ailing grandmother, who died Friday morning. Jon Rauch became the closer while Cordero was away, and Colome moved into Rauch’s role as the primary eighth-inning option.

Rauch recorded his third save in as many outings yesterday, but Acta said Cordero will return to the role tonight. He has had two outings since returning from the leave, and both have been positive.

Extra bases

Ronnie Belliard made his second career appearance at shortstop. He has played in 995 career games at second, 44 at third and three at first. His first game at shortstop was May 28, 1999, when his Milwaukee Brewers faced the San Diego Padres.

The five members of the starting rotation as of yesterday combined to make six starts in the majors in 2006 — all by Bergmann. Sixty percent of the rotation (Jason Simontacchi, Bowie and Speigner) did not start a game in the minor leagues either.

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