- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

ATLANTA — Washington Nationals pitcher Tony Armas Jr. will make the first start of his rehabilitation at Class AAA New Orleans on Friday.

Armas, who is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list today, likely will remain on the DL until the end of the month. Manager Frank Robinson said Armas will make three minor league starts before he is activated.

The right-hander was placed on the DL on March 28 with a right groin pull after pitching one inning the previous day against the New York Mets in a spring training game.

Armas, slated to be the Nationals’ No. 2 starter, pitched two innings in a simulated game yesterday at Atlanta’s Turner Field, and Robinson said he looked “very well, very good.”

“He will throw the maximum pitches. There won’t be any in-between,” Robinson said. “He will throw 55 pitches his first time out unless he struggles. If he struggles out there or whatever, you can go get him. The next time out we want him to throw 75, and the next time we want him to throw 95 pitches. We want him to throw the maximum amount of pitches rather than being managed or being between 50 and 55 and that type of thing.”

Robinson said Armas will pitch every five days with the New Orleans Zephyrs and likely will come off the DL on April 26.

When Armas is activated, the Nationals will have to make a roster move. Robinson appears content on carrying 11 pitchers, and Armas’ return likely would force John Patterson back to the bullpen. Patterson allowed just two runs on six hits and struck out six in seven innings against the Florida Marlins on Sunday.

Good news on Cordero

Backup first baseman Wil Cordero underwent successful surgery yesterday in Cincinnati to repair torn cartilage in his right knee and will be back quicker than expected.

Cordero, who felt a pop while fielding a fifth-inning grounder Thursday in Philadelphia, was abelieved to be out six to eight weeks. Cordero now is expected back in three to four weeks after Dr. Tim Kremchek performed the procedure.

Schneider’s day off

Backup catcher Gary Bennett is 5-for-8 lifetime against Atlanta starter Mike Hampton, but Robinson said that’s not why he started in place of Brian Schneider last night.

“He’s playing because I’ve got to give Schneider a day off,” Robinson said.

Originally, Robinson was going to rest Schneider tomorrow in the last game of the three-game series. Bennett had just one at-bat before last night.

“Regardless of when [Robinson] tells me to play, I’m coming in every day expecting to play and not come in on a shutdown mode and all of a sudden be surprised I’m in there,” Bennett said. “I just come in every day like I’m going to play.”

Farm system update

There are some early positive returns from a few players in the minor leagues who were invited to spring training. Outfielder Tyrell Godwin is hitting .375 (6-for-16) at Class AAA New Orleans. Closer Danny Rueckel has one save in two scoreless innings for Class AA Harrisburg, and 19-year-old shortstop Ian Desmond is batting .333 (4-for-12) and belted his first home run Sunday for the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League.

Extra bases

Jose Vidro’s first-inning double down the right-field line was his 100th career hit against the Braves. …

Schneider expects to catch President Bush’s ceremonial first pitch Thursday in the Nationals’ home opener at RFK Stadium. Even though starter Livan Hernandez could summon the catcher to the bullpen, Schneider believes the Nationals’ ace will allow him to go out and catch the historic pitch from the president. …

Nationals outfielder Alex Escobar underwent successful surgery to remove screws from his right foot and will be out eight to 12 weeks. Escobar, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on March 24, also had bone grafts to close the holes in his foot from the screws. Escobar’s surgery was performed by Dr. Lew Schoen in Baltimore. Escobar will begin his rehab today in Viera, Fla., the site of the Nationals’ extended spring training.

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