- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Injured Washington Nationals southpaw reliever Joey Eischen said he will begin a rehab assignment at Class AAA New Orleans next week. That’s good news for the injury-depleted Nationals, who already have lost 500 man-games this season from players on the disabled list.

?I’m pretty much ready right now,? said Eischen, who is on the 60-day DL with a broken right arm. ?We’re going to get me in some games coming up in about a week at Triple-A. I’ll be down there for like 10 days, and I’m going to travel with the [Nationals] to the West Coast and throw some live [batting practice]. I start [throwing in the bullpen] tomorrow.?

Eischen, 35, was injured fielding a chopper against the New York Mets on May 1 at RFK Stadium. After jumping to snare a ball to his right, Eischen landed awkwardly and snapped his forearm on impact.

Eischen (1-0 with a 4.15 ERA in 15 appearances) is eligible to come off the DL at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds began a rehab assignment at Class AA Harrisburg last night. Hammonds strained his hamstring May 22 in a game in Toronto.

?How long he’ll be down there, I don’t know,? Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. ?He needs to go have some at-bats.?

Pushed back a day

Monday’s off-day gave pitchers Esteban Loaiza and Livan Hernandez an extra day’s rest. Hernandez, who is 7-0 in his last nine starts, leads the National League in innings pitched with 911/3. Loaiza has tossed 781/3 innings.

Loaiza (1-4, 3.56 ERA) will start tonight, and Hernandez (8-2, 3.45) will start tomorrow night’s series finale against the Oakland Athletics.

?We feel like Livan and Loaiza have given us a lot of innings already, and we feel like an extra day will help them both,? Robinson said. ?So they’ll both get backed up a day, and we’re going to do what’s best for them over the long haul and what’s best for the ballclub.?

Wilkerson returns

Center fielder Brad Wilkerson returned to the lineup after mostly resting the past three games. Wilkerson, who is bothered by inflammation in his right hand, was used only as a ninth-inning defensive replacement in Saturday’s 7-3 victory over the Florida Marlins.

?I’m not going to tell you that I’m 100 percent yet, but I feel good enough to go out there and contribute and do a good job for this team,? Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson, who leads the majors with 22 doubles, is on pace to shatter the franchise record of 54 set by Mark Grudzielanek in 1997. Mickey Vernon holds the Washington record with 51 in 1946.

?Hopefully, I can find the right treatments to get [the hand] working where I can stay in there the rest of the year,? Wilkerson said.

Extra bases

With the Nationals in first place, area schools finishing their academic years and the weather warming up, team officials are looking for a spike at the box office. The team entered the game 12th in the majors in attendance with an average of 32,067 at RFK.

?We’re quite eager to see what our walk-up [sales are] going to be for the rest of this homestand [ending Sunday],? said David Cope, vice president for sales and marketing. ?A lot of factors are coming together in our favor. We’re already starting to see some increase in our single-game ticket sales, but the full impact of our being in first place is yet to be determined.? …

Robinson is scheduled to undergo vision correction surgery for a second time Monday morning in Los Angeles before the Nationals open a three-game series against the Angels. If he is unable to manage that night, bench coach Eddie Rodriguez will do so and roving coach Jack Voigt will take over Rodriguez’s duties.

Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this article.

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