- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

HERNANDEZ TO START ON DISABLED LIST

DUNEDIN, Fla. - Not wanting to rush Anderson Hernandez back too quickly from a strained left hamstring, the Washington Nationals have decided to place their starting second baseman on the disabled list to open the season.

Hernandez, who hurt himself running out a grounder March 25, participated in some fielding drills Wednesday at Space Coast Stadium in Viera but still experienced tightness. He’ll be placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to March 27, making him eligible to return as soon as April 11.

The Nationals don’t believe Hernandez, who will remain in Florida to continue his rehab, will need much time to get back on the field.

“It’s more taking some precaution with him than anything else,” manager Manny Acta said. “We don’t want to push it.”

Ronnie Belliard will take over as Washington’s starting second baseman for the immediate future. The move also all but ensures Alberto Gonzalez will make the Opening Day roster as a backup infielder.

Gonzalez has enjoyed an impressive spring both in the field and at the plate, but there was some sentiment in the organization to have him play shortstop every day at Class AAA Syracuse.

The Nationals still have one more opening to fill on their bench. They could choose to keep another infielder (either Alex Cintron or Kory Casto) or a third catcher (keeping both Wil Nieves and Josh Bard).

BLUE JAYS 7, NATIONALS 6

John Lannan’s rough start - seven runs and 10 hits allowed in 4 2/3 innings - put the Nationals into a deep hole, but a furious ninth-inning rally nearly brought them all the way back.

Washington scored four times in the ninth and had the tying run on second before Mike Daniel flied out to end the game.

Elijah Dukes, serving as designated hitter, suffered through a rough afternoon. Dukes struck out in all three of his plate appearances, giving him a team-high 19 in 47 at-bats this spring. Dukes is now hitting .234 and could be losing the battle for the starting right fielder’s job to Austin Kearns (.275, three homers, nine RBI).

- Mark Zuckerman

TEMPERATURE CHECK

DOWN - JOHN LANNAN

Rarely going to get knocked around like he did Wednesday

UP - JOSH BARD

Had pair of doubles; continues to earn praise of pitching staff

UP - ROSS DETWILER

After terrible performance earlier in spring, comes back with 2 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday

THURSDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Mostly cloudy, 64 degrees

Viera: Partly cloudy, 88 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Thursday: vs. Phillies in Clearwater, 1 p.m.

Friday: vs. Orioles in Norfolk, 3:30 p.m.

Saturday: vs. Orioles at Nationals Park, 6:05 p.m.

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