- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

With two-fifths of their starting rotation suddenly suffering shoulder injuries, the Washington Nationals might have to dig deep into their farm system just to get through the week.

The club already has placed Ryan Drese on the 15-day disabled list with what has now been diagnosed as a slightly torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Fellow right-hander Tony Armas Jr., who was forced to leave Tuesday night’s game against Cincinnati after three innings because of shoulder pain, could be next on the DL.

Armas received an injection yesterday, and the club won’t have a clearer idea of his status for two or three days. Team doctor Wiemi Douoguih said the pitcher is experiencing some “wear and tear” in the wake of his 2003 rotator cuff surgery, but neither Armas nor Drese needs to go under the knife.

That said, Washington now has two vacant spots in the rotation that must be filled by the weekend. Drese, who could return within 10 to 15 days, was scheduled to start Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals, and Armas appears unlikely to be ready by Sunday.

Assuming the pitching staff makes it through the rest of the week intact, general manager Jim Bowden and manager Frank Robinson said left-hander John Halama would probably start Saturday. Sunday’s starter remains uncertain, though Bowden indicated left-hander Matt White (8-5, 3.23 ERA at Class AAA New Orleans) is the leading candidate.

The injuries aren’t just affecting the Nationals’ pitching staff, though. Bowden conceded they have prevented the club from calling up top draft pick Ryan Zimmerman.

“If we didn’t have the injuries, he’d probably be here today,” Bowden said.

The Nationals still expect to promote Zimmerman, hitting .312 for Class AA Harrisburg entering last night’s game, before Aug.31 in order to keep him eligible for the postseason roster. But they may have to wait a few more days before pulling the trigger.

“The plan is to get him on the roster as soon as it helps our team win,” Bowden said. “But if you don’t have pitching, you can’t play the game. So we have to take care of the pitching first. We don’t have a lot of players with options. We don’t have a lot of flexibility on this roster. I still think he’ll be here soon.”

Wilkerson out again

Outfielder Brad Wilkerson was not in the starting lineup for the third straight game last night, the second straight because of sinusitis.

Wilkerson, who said he first started feeling ill Monday, was sent home to rest Tuesday but was back in uniform yesterday. Ryan Church once again batted leadoff and played left field, which continues to be a sore spot of sorts for Wilkerson, who said he felt well enough to play last night.

“I don’t want to get into that,” he said. “It’s the manager’s decision. They know I can go.”

Wilkerson said he planned to meet with Robinson before the game and talk about his role with the club.

Robinson responds

Frenk Robinson confirmed comments he made over the weekend saying that Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro’s statistics should be eliminated now that he has tested positive for steroids. Robinson, whose 586 career home runs rank sixth all-time, said that policy should stand for any major leaguers who are proven to have taken performance-enhancing drugs.

“Anybody, if they’re found to have used it,” he said. “That’s just my opinion.”

Robinson first made the comments over the weekend to MLB.com for a story that ran online Tuesday night.

“He was found to have used steroids, and he served a 10-day suspension,” Robinson told the Web site. “I was surprised and taken aback that he was using steroids, because I never thought about him being a person that might be a steroids user. I always admired him for the way he went about his work, the way he performed on the field and the way he conducted himself off the field.”

Extra bases

An MRI on reliever Luis Ayala’s right elbow confirmed he has tendinitis. Ayala, who has not pitched since Sunday, remains day-to-day. … Shortstop Cristian Guzman was out of the lineup after undergoing a root canal earlier in the day. Guzman, who had been dealing with an abscess in one of his lower right molars for some time, had a temporary cap inserted. He’ll need to have the procedure completed next week….

Hitting coach Tom McCraw filled in as first-base coach for the second time this season. McCraw replaced Don Buford, who received a steroid injection in his lower back and stayed home.

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