Flores could miss the start of spring training

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PHILADELPHIA | Just when it appeared Jesus Flores was recovering from a broken clavicle, another injury to his right shoulder is threatening the catcher’s availability for the start of the 2010 season for the Washington Nationals.

Flores has a torn labrum, tests revealed this week, and will undergo surgery Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. General manager Mike Rizzo said the timetable for recovery is three to six months, so the franchise’s starting catcher may not be ready for the start of spring training.

Rizzo said this injury is not directly related to the broken clavicle Flores suffered May 9 when he took a foul ball off his shoulder blade, though it did crop up during his rehabilitation. Flores began complaining about a month ago of shoulder pain, though an MRI taken Aug. 12 revealed no tears.

“The experts don’t think it’s related to the [broken clavicle],” Rizzo said.

Still unable to throw without discomfort, though, he flew back to the District to receive an enhanced MRI, which revealed a “SLAP” tear. Orthopedist James Andrews is slated to perform the surgery Wednesday.

Detwiler to start Thursday

Ross Detwiler will return to the Nationals’ rotation and start Thursday against Philadelphia. For the rookie left-hander, this start (plus perhaps one more after that) provides an opportunity to leave a positive impression on the organization heading into the winter.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I mean, it’s a clean slate going into spring training pretty much, but I want to get a few things done. I want to get that first win. I want to finish up the year strong.”

Washington’s first-round pick in 2007 went 0-5 with a 6.40 ERA in his first 10 big league starts earlier this summer but rebounded to post a 3.10 ERA at Class AAA Syracuse and then tossed two innings of scoreless relief Saturday against Florida.

Not wanting to push him much past his current season total of 130 2/3 innings, the Nationals will closely monitor Detwiler. But they do want to get one or two more looks at him against major league competition.

“We want him to turn from a prospect into a reliable major leaguer, and that happens when you garner enough innings in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “I guess what we’re looking for is for him to get experience on the major league level and to show the skills that he’s always shown flashes of.”

2010 schedule out

The Nationals will open the 2010 season April 5 at home against the Phillies according to the master schedule released Tuesday by Major League Baseball.

This will be the third time in six seasons Washington opens at home - it also did in 2007 and 2008 - and the fifth straight season it closes on the road (Oct. 3 at the Mets). In between, the Nationals will enjoy three long homestands of 10 games apiece while enduring three road trips of at least nine games.

Along with the traditional “Battle of the Beltways” series against the Orioles (May 21-23 in the District, June 25-27 at Baltimore), the Nationals will face American League Central opponents in interleague play. They’ll travel to Cleveland (June 11-13) and Detroit (June 15-17) and host the Chicago White Sox (June 18-20) and Kansas City Royals (June 21-23).

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