- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

MIAMI — Veteran Washington Nationals first baseman Wil Cordero could miss up to three months after an MRI taken yesterday revealed a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Club officials were waiting last night to get a second opinion from the Miami-area doctor who operated on Cordero’s knees last year, but team physician Bruce Thomas said arthroscopic surgery is likely.

“At this point, we’re anticipating that at some time next week, he’s going to have another arthroscopy,” Thomas said before last night’s game against the Florida Marlins. “But that could change tonight.”

According to Thomas, the timetable for Cordero’s return should he need surgery is two to three months. Even if he does not need the surgery, the recovery time is “variable,” Thomas said, meaning Cordero figures to be on the disabled list longer than the minimum 15 days.

Cordero was placed on the 15-day DL, and yesterday the Nationals purchased veteran infielder Carlos Baerga to fill his roster spot.

Cordero felt something in his knee pop as he was running out a fly ball to center field in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 5-4 win in Philadelphia. Though the injury was considered new, the 33-year-old first baseman suffered similar injuries in both knees while playing for the Marlins last year and wound up appearing in only 27 games.

The Nationals weren’t counting Cordero out for the year yesterday, but whether he is sidelined two weeks, three months or the season, manager Frank Robinson said he’ll be sorely missed.

“It’s a big loss,” Robinson said. “This guy is a plus for the ballclub. He knows how to hit in tough situations. He knows how to hit against tough pitchers. It’s great to have him start a ballgame for you, and it’s great to know he’s sitting on the bench for you if you need him. It’s going to be a big hole. We just hope that Baerga can plug up some of it.”

Washington’s final roster cut at the end of spring training, Baerga was in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday preparing to open the season with the Nationals’ Class AAA New Orleans Zephyrs affiliate. He got a call from general manager Jim Bowden around 2 p.m. and immediately set out to rejoin the team in Miami.

Baerga, 36, had been calling around inquiring if another major league club might be interested in him. Given the late timing, Baerga didn’t find any takers, so he agreed to report to New Orleans with the understanding that he could sign with any major league club if given the opportunity.

Had he returned home to Puerto Rico, Baerga said he would have been tempted to retire. Instead, the Nationals came calling within days.

“I realized they have a couple of players here who might get hurt,” Baerga said. “Bowden said it was no problem. He said, ‘We want you to stay here because we could really use you.’ So that’s what I did.”

Setback for Escobar

Outfielder Alex Escobar, who opened the season on the 15-day DL with a strained right quadriceps, will undergo a procedure Monday to have screws removed from his right foot that is likely to keep him sidelined up to three months.

It appears Escobar’s quad injury was related to the broken foot that caused him to miss the second half of last season. The Nationals’ medical staff had hoped Escobar could play with the screws in his foot, but it became obvious that wasn’t going to be possible.

“We think that ultimately, the foot problem has made things harder on him,” Thomas said. “He’s changed his gait, the way he moves. … It’s one of those things where if it doesn’t bother you, you leave the screws in. But if it starts to cause you problems and it changes your gait, your biomechanics, you have to take it out.”

The Nationals acquired Escobar from the Chicago White Sox on the eve of spring training for minor league outfielder Jerry Owens.

Extra bases

Catcher Brian Schneider committed his second error in four games last night when he threw high to second base on Luis Castillo’s second-inning stolen base. Schneider committed only two errors all last season. … Ryan Church, who was supposed to be the Nationals’ Opening Day center fielder, will likely make his debut tonight. Church was held out of the first two games with a strained groin, then did not start the last two days because Washington was facing left-handers.

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