- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 19, 2005

ARLINGTON, Texas — The never-ending attrition of the Washington Nationals’ roster through injuries continued yesterday when the club placed reliever T.J. Tucker on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow.

Tucker, who was forced to leave Friday night’s game in the eighth inning after complaining of pain in his pitching arm, was placed on the 15-day DL. To fill his spot in the bullpen, the Nationals announced before last night’s game against the Texas Rangers that they will recall right-hander Travis Hughes from Class AAA New Orleans.

Tucker had struggled significantly since returning from his first stint on the DL three weeks ago. After posting a 0.00 ERA through his first nine appearances, he was scored upon in each of his last four, pushing his ERA to 6.39.

Turns out he had been pitching in pain for a while.

“I’ve been pitching with it since I came back,” Tucker said. “Just trying to get through it, you know?”

Tucker becomes the latest National to head for the DL — he’s the 10th player currently on the list, the sixth pitcher — joining the likes of Jon Rauch (shoulder), Joey Eischen (forearm) and Zach Day (forearm).

The attrition has left Washington with few viable options in its farm system.

“The cupboard’s been bare down there,” manager Frank Robinson said.

The Nationals can only hope Hughes fills the void. The 27-year-old right-hander posted a 2.57 ERA and six saves in 32 games at New Orleans, but he has just two games of major league experience, last season with the Rangers.

Texas designated Hughes for assignment on April4, and three days later the Nationals claimed him. Thus, he becomes the second former Rangers hurler to join the staff in eight days. Ryan Drese was acquired June10.

Washington originally hoped to have Hughes, who was playing in nearby Oklahoma City with the Zephyrs, in uniform and available for last night’s game. He was unable to make a flight in time, though, and so won’t officially join the team until today.

Vidro takes hacks

Second baseman Jose Vidro took another significant step toward his return from the DL yesterday when he took batting practice for the first time since tearing a tendon in his left ankle May4.

Vidro, who also began running for the first time three days ago, still believes he’ll be ready to play when the Nationals return to RFK Stadium next weekend.

“I’ve run in the field, I’ve run the bases,” he said. “I’ve got to get on the field before I do anything else. But I’m doing good.”

The club still appears reluctant to rush the veteran switch-hitter back and may choose to send him on a rehabilitation assignment before activating him.

“As good a hitter as he is, I still think he needs to go because he has a lot of catching up to do,” Robinson said.

Vidro, who was hitting .290 with four homers and 15 RBI when he was hurt sliding into home plate in Los Angeles, believes he can come back without a rehab stint.

“Hopefully, I can get a couple of at-bats in the cage and that’ll be all,” he said. “I can get used to things pretty quick, so that’s no problem. … I feel like I can go out there and play. I like the way I feel. But it’s a lot different between games and practice.”

Eischen starts rehab

Eischen, out since May1 with a broken right forearm, began his rehab assignment with New Orleans last night in Oklahoma City. He pitched one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and one walk and striking out one.

The veteran left-hander is eligible to come off the 60-day DL on June28, and he has said all along he plans to return to the mound at that time. The Nationals still want to be cautious with Eischen, though, whose over-exuberance can sometimes be to his detriment.

“If it was up to Joey, he’d be pitching up here right now,” Robinson said. “We don’t want him coming back before he’s ready.”

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