- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2005

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Washington Nationals were relieved to learn yesterday that Jose Vidro has only a hyperextended right elbow and should return to the lineup within a few days.

Vidro, though, is running out of time to get himself ready for Opening Day. The club sought to ease the All-Star second baseman back from his September knee surgery, so he had played in only three games this spring before injuring his elbow last Saturday.

Continuing a spring-long trend, Vidro did not make the trip with the Nationals for last night’s exhibition game against the New York Mets. Instead, he stayed in Viera, Fla., where he underwent an MRI exam that confirmed the hyperextension originally diagnosed by team doctor Bruce Thomas earlier in the week.

“He’s day-to-day, but he’s improving,” general manager Jim Bowden said. “A lot of the time with a hyperextended elbow, you’re ready to go after a couple of days. Jose wasn’t. So we wanted him to have the MRI as a precaution, just to make sure it wasn’t something worse. And it’s not.”

Vidro does not figure to play today when Washington plays host to Cleveland in Viera. Unless he makes his first road trip of the spring to play the Dodgers tomorrow in Vero Beach, he will have to wait until Monday to return to the lineup.

That would give Vidro exactly two weeks to prepare for Opening Day on April 4 in Philadelphia. The veteran has said he needs only 30 at-bats in spring training — about 10 days’ worth of games — to get his swing down.

Both Bowden and Nationals manager Frank Robinson say there are no concerns yet about Vidro’s availability for the regular season. Robinson added yesterday he expects his No. 3 hitter to be able to play every day come April with no ill effects from either his surgically repaired knee or his injured elbow.

“Vidro is fine,” the manager said.

Robinson desperately needs Vidro to be a fixture in the heart of his daily lineup. A three-time All-Star, the 30-year-old is a career .304 hitter who saw his production dip somewhat last season while he attempted to play with an inflamed patella tendon.

The Expos finally shut Vidro down in late August, and Sept. 8 he underwent surgery to remove the inflamed portion of the tendon along with an inflammatory nodule inside his right knee.

Though he wasn’t in uniform for last night’s game, Vidro did participate in a light morning workout back at Space Coast Stadium and reported making progress.

“He was doing better today,” Bowden said. “So that’s good.”

Utility infielder Jamey Carroll has filled in for Vidro at second base most of the spring and was there again last night against the Mets.

Notes — Vinny Castilla is expected to be out a couple of days after hyperextending his left knee catching a foul ball in the fourth inning of last night’s game. The veteran third baseman said his knee got caught on the dirt around the Mets’ bullpen as he chased down Doug Mientkiewicz’s pop foul.

“I hope it’s [not serious],” he said. “I’m going to make sure I’m all right [before coming back to play].”

Castilla will undergo a precautionary MRI today, and Robinson plans to give him a couple of days off to heal.

“I think it will be a day or two at least,” the manager said. …

Despite reports of the Cincinnati Reds’ interest in acquiring Zach Day for Wily Mo Pena, baseball sources said Bowden is unlikely to trade a pitcher of Day’s caliber in exchange for the power-hitting outfielder. …

Tony Armas Jr. threw three perfect innings in a minor league game yesterday morning in Viera. The right-hander, whose scheduled start Thursday against the Mets was rained out, struck out two, walked none and threw 45 pitches.

Closer Chad Cordero, also forced to pitch in the “B” game because of Thursday’s washout, threw two scoreless innings in relief of Armas. …

Reliever Hector Carrasco was forced to leave the minor league game with a strained back and is listed as day-to-day. It’s not believed the injury was related to Carrasco’s March 9 automobile accident, which he walked away from with only a bruised neck and wrist. …

Robinson said he would like to open the season with an 11-man pitching staff, allowing him to keep an extra position player on the bench. Before he can make that decision for sure, though, Robinson said he must be confident his five-man starting rotation can regularly avoid short outings. “It you can stay away from those, 11 pitchers should be enough,” he said. …

Leesburg-based station WAGE (AM-1200) will serve as an affiliate of the Nationals’ newly formed radio network this season. The club announced its flagship stations — WWZZ (FM-104.1) and WFED (AM-1050) — earlier this month, but it has yet to announce its full network of affiliates.

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