- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Washington Nationals should get a big personnel boost soon, possibly as early as next week. And that boost will come from within the organization.

Second baseman Jose Vidro will begin a rehab assignment tonight with the Class A Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, Va. Vidro will bat leadoff as the designated hitter for at least two games before trying to play the field.

“I’m very excited, not because I’m going back to playing. I’m talking about running and doing my thing,” Vidro said. “Hopefully, I can get back here in no time and go down there and work on everything without pain. I’m going to go day-by-day and build up from Day One.”

There is no timetable for Vidro’s return. The Nationals want to see how he fares this weekend before evaluating his status. If everything goes OK, he could be activated off the disabled list next week.

“Jose is a leader of this club,” Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. “The club misses his bat. He’s an impact player on this team. We’re excited that we are hopefully going to get a healthy Jose Vidro for the second half, and I want to make sure we do it right so there is no setback.”

The switch-hitting Vidro has been on the DL since May9 with a torn ankle tendon, which occurred when he slid home May4 at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Before the injury, Vidro was hitting .290 with four homers and 15 RBI in 28 games.

Vidro suffered a minor setback last Thursday when he tweaked his right knee running bases, delaying the rehab assignment. Vidro simulated running bases, coming out of the box and stealing a base yesterday in RFK Stadium’s left-field grass and felt no pain.

“He needs to get his game speed, but physically he’s done well. He’s beat the curve by a couple weeks,” Nationals team physician Bruce Thomas said.

Eischen to be activated

Left-handed reliever Joey Eischen vowed to return to the Nationals’ roster the first day he was eligible to come off the disabled list. Apparently, he is a man of his word.

The Nationals plan to activate Eischen in Chicago tomorrow, the first day he is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list. Eischen broke his right forearm May1 while he fielded a chopper by the Mets’ Kaz Matsui and fell awkwardly.

Eischen, who had a plate and screws implanted in his nonthrowing arm, will become the only left-hander in the Nationals’ bullpen.

Eischen is on a rehab assignment at Class AAA New Orleans. Eischen has a 1.35 ERA in 62/3 innings with the Zephyrs.

“Eischen is going to rejoin the club Friday in Chicago. He’s ready to go,” Bowden said. “He pitched another good inning [Tuesday night]. He’s there. He’s got command. I spoke with Joey, I spoke with [Zephyrs manager] Tim Foli and basically he’s ready to go.”

To make room for Eischen, the Nationals likely will option reliever Travis Hughes back to New Orleans.

Decision on Church soon

If rookie outfielder Ryan Church can’t return soon from his sore right collarbone, the Nationals might have to put him on the 15-day DL retroactive to June23.

Church, a contender for National League rookie of the year, does not want to go on the DL. But with first baseman Nick Johnson (heel) also injured, the Nationals might need some help.

Church injured himself last Wednesday in Pittsburgh when he slammed into PNC Park’s left-field wall on a spectacular game-ending catch, robbing the Pirates’ Humberto Cota of extra bases. Church is throwing without pain but is struggling to swing the bat.

Most of his pain is in his right collarbone even though his left shoulder took the full impact of the collision. Church is hitting a team-high .325 with seven home runs and 28 RBI.

“It’s really killing me to hit,” Church said. “I don’t want to go [on the DL]. Hopefully, overnight something happens, and it improves. We need to win, and we need bodies. If I can’t go, I’m not helping the team out.”

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