- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson has stated firmly that he’s unlikely to have room on his Opening Day roster for Rule 5 pickup Tyrell Godwin. But that hasn’t stopped the speedy outfielder from doing everything he can to make the Nationals find a place for him.

Godwin was at it again yesterday in Washington’s 12-3 exhibition loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. He singled to lead off the first inning and scored on Jamey Carroll’s double down the left-field line. Next time up, he walked and stole second base.

For the spring, Godwin, 25, has reached base in six of 13 plate appearances. Contrast that to projected leadoff hitter Endy Chavez’s .200 batting average and on-base percentage of .200 (3-for-15), and it’s no wonder Chavez is feeling some heat.

“I know my game is to get on base,” said Godwin, who spent last season playing for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class AA affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. “You’ve got to know your role. I’m not here to drive in runs. I’m here to try to get on base and score. I’m not really putting too much thought into it, trying to do too much. I’m just trying to be myself and have productive [at-bats].”

If the Nationals decide to keep Godwin on their 25-man roster, they would have to keep him there all season or risk losing him back to the Blue Jays per Rule 5 draft regulations. For that reason, he remains a spring training long shot.

Though not necessarily a “no-shot.”

“He does intrigue me,” Robinson said. “When you have a guy with speed, speed comes to the ballpark every day. It can put an awful lot of pressure on the defense.”

Pitchers battered

Though starter Zach Day’s pitching line (six runs, three earned, in two innings) was the ugliest in yesterday’s lopsided loss, the rest of the Nationals staff didn’t fare much better.

Right-hander T.J. Tucker struggled through his second straight rough outing, yielding a three-run homer to Brandon Berger in the fifth. That followed Tucker’s five-run inning of relief Tuesday in Jupiter, also against the Cardinals.

“He’s got to start missing some bats,” Robinson said.

Tucker said he’s not overly concerned with recent results. He has been working on a new cut fastball that he learned from teammate Esteban Loaiza, and he attributed Berger’s homer yesterday to the stiff wind that was blowing out to left field at Space Coast Stadium.

“Fly ball, I thought it was caught,” Tucker said. “And then the next thing you know, it’s a home run. … I’m feeling strong. I’m going out there throwing strikes. It’s early, and that’s what [Robinson] wants.”

Mike Hinckley surrendered a run and three hits in two innings, but the rookie left-hander came out of this outing feeling much better than he did Sunday after getting tagged by the Mets for six runs and eight hits.

“I felt like I could see the glove a lot better today,” Hinckley said. “I felt like I was just playing a glorified game of catch.”

Where are the starters?

The Nationals fielded a starting lineup yesterday with only one regular: Brad Wilkerson, who started at first base instead of his usual left field. Robinson plans to use a similar squad of backups today against the Florida Marlins in Jupiter.

In fact, Washington’s reserves and minor leaguers have received more at-bats this spring than the projected starters. Entering today’s game, 19-year-old shortstop Ian Desmond and minor league infielder Brendan Harris lead the club with 18 at-bats.

Jose Vidro and Nick Johnson, meanwhile, have six at-bats apiece, though Robinson has been trying to ease those two in all month because each is coming off an injury-plagued 2004 season.

Any particular reason why the backups have been getting so much playing time?

“I want to look at them,” Robinson said. “I want to see a little more of them. Some of the other guys are going to really start to get into this in another week or so.”

Robinson said interim general manager Jim Bowden occasionally will mention that he’d like to see a particular player in that day’s lineup, and the manager will acquiesce. But ultimately it is Robinson who sets the lineup.

Extra bases

Tony Armas Jr. makes his third start of the spring today against the Marlins. Armas has given up three runs in five innings over his two previous outings. … Spotted in the crowd yesterday: former Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt and actor John Goodman.

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