- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

VIERA, Fla. — Nationals Park opens in less than two weeks, and while the stadium will be fully operational for the Washington Nationals’ first two games, club officials said there could be a few kinks.

“We expect all the things to operate smoothly, but we’re realistic and understand that everything might not,” team president Stan Kasten said. “I would’ve liked to have the stadium [done] a month or two ago, but we didn’t have that luxury. … It’s a hard way to open a building, but we’re playing the cards we were dealt and we think we’re going to get most of it done well.”

Kasten said the team will learn from the March 29 exhibition against the Baltimore Orioles and the following night’s season opener against the Atlanta Braves and make changes before the Nationals return home the following week.

An intentionally limited crowd of 20,000 to 25,000 will attend the Saturday night exhibition, though all gates, concessions and sections will be open with a full staff of ushers, vendors and stadium operations personnel working.

A limited number of tickets to the March 30 season opener will be available to fans through an online lottery this week with winners notified March 25. Kasten also said the team may sell about 400 $5 day-of-game tickets that afternoon, though a decision on how and when to make those seats available has not been made.

Kasten hopes to work out an arrangement for several cash parking lots near the ballpark in time for Opening Night. The club expects to offer about 5,000 total parking spaces, most of them going to season-ticket holders.

“We’re going to have enough for the customers who need it,” Kasten said.

Orr makes case

Pete Orr remains a long shot to make the 25-man roster, but that hasn’t stopped the scrappy infielder from making the Nationals consider him.

The nonroster invitee went 2-for-3 yesterday against the Los Angeles Dodgers to raise his spring average to .367. He has three doubles, a triple and a home run in 13 exhibition games.

“He’s driving the ball more consistently than what I remember,” manager Manny Acta said.

With bench spots at a premium, Orr might need a miracle at this point. If nothing else, though, he hopes he has made an impression that could eventually pay off.

“You never know when it can happen,” he said. “You might have to be patient with things. If you can show them something now, maybe they’ll want to see you later.”

Injury updates

Shawn Hill threw 25 pitches off a mound yesterday for the first time in two weeks. The right-hander, hampered by a forearm injury, didn’t throw with full velocity but reported no pain.

“The ball jumped out of his hand,” pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. “He was throwing pretty firm, great action to the ball. Location was outstanding. He looked great.”

Paul Lo Duca (knee surgery) caught three innings in the accelerated minor league game and had three at-bats. The club wants him to catch five innings before putting him in a big league game.

Ryan Zimmerman (hip) and Elijah Dukes (hamstring) should return to the lineup tomorrow. Lastings Milledge (toe) will play today against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Roster moves

Third baseman Kory Casto was optioned to Class AAA Columbus after hitting .150 in 15 spring games. Right-hander Steven Shell (6.43 ERA in four games) and left-hander Arnie Munoz (0.00 ERA in two games) were both reassigned to minor league camp. The moves leave Washington with 41 players in big league camp.

Staff writer Ben Goessling contributed to this article.

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