- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2005

CHICAGO — Nothing is certain in baseball, but Washington Nationals pitchers Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero have done their part to be named to the National League All-Star team today.

Hernandez, the Nationals’ top starter, and Cordero, the closer, have been spectacular the first half of the season. Hernandez (12-2, 3.32 ERA) is tied with Florida’s Dontrelle Willis (12-3) and St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter (12-4) for the most wins in the NL. Meanwhile, Cordero leads the major leagues with 29 saves and has a 0.85 ERA.

Cordero tied the major league record for saves in a month with 15 in June, joining the Cardinals’ Lee Smith (1993) and New York Yankees’ John Wetteland (1996). With yesterday’s six-pitch save, Cordero has converted a franchise-record number of saves before the All-Star break, including 26 consecutive opportunities.

If selected, Hernandez would make the NL team for a second straight season and Cordero, in his second full year in the big leagues, would make the team for the first time. The All-Star Game will be played July12 at Detroit’s Comerica Park. Tony La Russa, the NL’s All-Star manager, selects the pitchers.

“Last year it was something special to be on the All-Star team,” Hernandez said of his first invitation. “Everybody knows that I’m working hard on the mound every five days. It’s a moment you never forget in your life.”

Cordero will believe it when he sees it. At just 23, Cordero needs just one more save to move into 10th place on the franchise’s single-season all-time leaders. Wetteland set the franchise record of 43 in 1993.

“I’m very excited. If I’m picked, it would be a great feeling,” Cordero said. “It’s very special because a lot of people don’t get to do that — to go out there and be alongside the greatest players in the league.”

Hernandez did not pitch in last year’s midsummer classic. He said if he does pitch in the All-Star Game, it will be for no more than one inning, and if he really had his way, he would only face one batter.

“I want to enjoy it, I want to have a good time over there and that’s it,” Hernandez said. “I think more people here need to make it.”

Among the hitters, first baseman Nick Johnson and outfielder Jose Guillen have the numbers to warrant consideration, but neither finished in the top five in fan voting at his position. However, both Johnson (.320, eight home runs, 42 RBI) and Guillen (.305, 17 home runs, 46 RBI) still have chances to be included.

After La Russa chooses all but one of the position-player reserves for his 32-man roster, a list of five unchosen players is put up for fans to vote on online over three days. The winners will be announced Wednesday at 8p.m. Last year, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu and New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui were added by the fans.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson didn’t want to talk about his club’s outstanding pitchers until the announcement is official.

“I’ll talk about it [today] if they make the team or don’t make the team,” he said.

Ayala ailing

Nationals setup man Luis Ayala, who leads the majors with 45 appearances, asked Robinson not to use him Friday against the Chicago Cubs. Ayala has a sore right shoulder.

Robinson even took it a step further yesterday and gave Ayala another day off, using Hector Carrasco in the setup role.

Ayala has experienced nagging shoulder problems in the past.

“It’s only a day, I’ve pitched a lot,” said Ayala, who is 7-4 with a 3.00 ERA. “Yesterday I talked to Frank and said, ‘I’m so tired, I need a day off. I don’t want to look like a superman. The second half of the season is coming.’”

Extra bases

Major League Baseball will hear Marlon Byrd’s appeal of his two-game suspension and $1,000 fine Wednesday at RFK Stadium. Byrd was ejected in the seventh inning of the Nationals’ 7-3 victory over the Florida Marlins on June4 by first-base umpire Bill Miller for arguing a called third strike. When Byrd realized he had been ejected, he charged toward Miller from shallow left field but collided with and ran over second-base umpire Joe Brinkman, who was trying to restrain Byrd from going after Miller. …

Nationals general manager Jim Bowden has made two 1-for-1 trades — Endy Chavez for Byrd and Tomo Ohka for Junior Spivey. The Nationals are 15-5 since acquiring Spivey from Milwaukee on June10 and 30-14 after getting Byrd from Philadelphia on May14. …

Nick Johnson (heel) and shortstop Cristian Guzman (hamstring) have made significant progress and could be in the lineup for the upcoming four-game home series with the New York Mets, beginning tomorrow afternoon.

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