- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

When Brad Wilkerson reached base in four straight plate appearances Friday night, Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson noted what a positive impact it had on his club’s struggling offense.

So why wasn’t Wilkerson back atop the lineup yesterday against the St. Louis Cardinals? Turned out he was unavailable after receiving a cortisone shot in his injured left shoulder the previous night.

Wilkerson originally hurt the shoulder sliding into first base at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park in late June. It had been acting up recently, and with Cardinals left-hander Mark Mulder scheduled to start yesterday’s game at RFK Stadium, the Nationals figured the time was right to give Wilkerson the shot.

When word came that Mulder had been scratched with a stiff neck and replaced by right-hander Jason Marquis, it was too late for Wilkerson to play. Marlon Byrd started in left field instead.

Who knows whether Wilkerson’s presence in the Nationals’ lineup would have made any difference in the 6-0 loss, but it clearly did during Friday night’s 4-1 win.

“You saw it,” Robinson said. “He gives us opportunities to do things behind him. It puts pressure on the other ballclub. It just sets up opportunities for us to do things offensively.”

Wilkerson took it all in stride, saying he’ll be ready for today’s series finale against the Cardinals and this week’s four-game series in Atlanta.

“I felt fine about it because there were some doubts about whether I’d be able to play on Monday if I got the shot on Sunday night,” he said. “Now I get it out of the way, and I’ll be ready to go.”

Zimmerman still down

The Nationals made a roster move after yesterday’s game, but not the one everyone anticipated. After optioning left-hander Matt White back to Class AAA New Orleans following his first major league start, the club purchased reliever Jason Bergmann. That meant third baseman Ryan Zimmerman would remain at Class AA Harrisburg for at least another day.

There was speculation the Nationals would use this opportunity to promote Zimmerman, this year’s top draft pick, but club sources said they can’t afford to make the move while their pitching staff remains depleted.

Reliever Luis Ayala hasn’t pitched in a week because of right elbow tendinitis. The status of starter Tony Armas Jr. (right shoulder tendinitis) remains uncertain as well.

Bergmann gives Robinson another right-hander out of the bullpen for today’s game against the Cardinals. The 23-year-old was a combined 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA and seven saves in 41 games between Harrisburg and New Orleans. He was the Montreal Expos’ 11th-round pick in the 2002 draft out of Rutgers.

Armas on Thursday

Armas is tentatively scheduled to start Thursday against the Braves, nine days removed from his last appearance. The Nationals are hoping the extra rest for his fragile pitching shoulder will pay off, as it did earlier this month. Armas was given 10 days off after complaining of shoulder pain and responded with six shutout innings at Colorado’s Coors Field.

The Nationals also might try to continue to spread out Armas’ starts down the stretch in an effort to maximize his performances.

“It’ll be a little easier after Sept.1 [when rosters expand to 40 players] to do that if we decide to,” Robinson said. “If we feel like that’s good for him, then we’ll do it.”

Extra bases

John Halama will start today’s game for the Nationals. In his only other start this season, May3 for the Boston Red Sox, he allowed two runs over five innings against the Detroit Tigers to earn the win. … White became the Nationals’ 49th player this season, tying a franchise record set last year in Montreal.

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