- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 5, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — By the time the Washington Nationals’ 9-6 exhibition victory over the Baltimore Orioles was complete yesterday, Livan Hernandez had become an afterthought. A three-run rally by the Orioles in the eighth, followed by a five-run rally by the Nationals in the ninth, stole all the attention away from Washington’s starting pitcher.

Hernandez, though, was content with his three innings in his first appearance of the spring. The veteran right-hander, who will start Opening Day in Philadelphia on April 4, allowed two runs and five hits but was done in by some shaky defense.

“I tried to pitch; I tried to put the ball where I wanted,” Hernandez said. “It’s hard sometimes, because it was my first time on the mound. But everything’s good. I threw 52 pitches in three innings, and I feel pretty good.”

Hernandez got Sammy Sosa looking at a breaking ball to end the first inning — a borderline call that ultimately led to Sosa’s ejection — but gave up a run in the second and third innings.

The second wasn’t entirely his fault. David Newhan led off with a bloop single to left and turned it into a double when Brad Wilkerson misplayed the ball. Newhan scored when first baseman Wil Cordero was slow trying to turn a potential inning-ending double play.

Nationals manager Frank Robinson wasn’t overly concerned about his ace’s unspectacular spring debut.

“Livan’s Livan,” Robinson said. “First time out there, he got his work in, threw the ball, changed speeds. He looked all right. He’ll get sharper as he goes.”

Collins in crowd

Northern Virginia businessman William Collins III, one of several potential owners bidding on the Nationals, attended the game as a guest of Orioles bench coach Sam Perlozzo. The two were college roommates at George Washington and have remained close friends since.

Collins, chairman of American Baseball Capital (formerly the Virginia Baseball Club), said he and his associates will formally review the Nationals’ financial records next week at Major League Baseball’s New York headquarters.

“We think [our chances of owning the Nationals] are outstanding,” Collins said. “I don’t think anybody has done more than my partners and I to bring major league baseball back to the national capital area. We kept baseball alive during a period where I don’t think too many people thought they’d ever see major league baseball. I think baseball recognizes our commitment and dedication to this game and to the process, which we’ve been actively involved with.”

Collins, who worked for more than a decade to bring a baseball team to the area, couldn’t wait to watch the Nationals in person yesterday.

“It’s just great to look out there, see a major league baseball team playing and realize it’s your home team,” he said. “That’s nice.”

Sosa gets tossed

Sosa’s second game as an Oriole didn’t last very long. The star slugger was ejected in the top of the second inning after second-base umpire C.B. Bucknor overheard him arguing from his perch in right field.

Sosa was still fuming over a borderline strike three call by plate umpire Joe West the previous inning. After taking his place in right field, Sosa began jawing at West. Bucknor overheard and proceeded to eject him.

“I said, ‘That was a strike?’ ” Sosa said. “Then the second-base umpire was like, ‘Knock it off.’ I said something back to him, and that was everything. I was all the way in right field, but I guess he took it the wrong way. …

“I told [Bucknor], ‘Come on, this is spring training.’ I was like, ‘Wow, you can’t even say anything in this game.’ ”

Sosa homered Friday in his Orioles debut.

Extra bases

Right-hander John Patterson, fighting for a spot in the Nationals’ rotation or bullpen, threw three scoreless innings in relief of Hernandez. Righty Gary Majewski gave up three runs in the eighth, blowing a two-run lead. …

Outfielders Terrmel Sledge and Wilkerson hit back-to-back homers in the sixth. Sledge delivered a two-run shot to center field off Baltimore reliever Hayden Penn, and Wilkerson followed with a towering blast over the right-field bleachers.

The Nationals play split-squad games today. Right-hander Zach Day will start the home game against the Houston Astros and lefty Mike Hinckley on the road against the New York Mets. Robinson will manage the Astros game and first-base coach Don Buford the Mets game.

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