- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Washington Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez proclaimed himself healthy enough to start today’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, but an injury has sidelined John Patterson for at least one start.

Patterson, who has been one of the biggest surprises on the club this season, is bothered by a sore lower back. Patterson will miss tomorrow’s start at the Toronto Blue Jays and will be replaced by Claudio Vargas.

Patterson is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a .226 opponents batting average (tied for eighth in the National League). He isn’t scheduled to pitch again until Wednesday at the Cincinnati Reds.

Meanwhile, Patterson seemed to indicate that tomorrow’s start may still be a possibility.

?I’m going to kind of wait and see when it all comes out or whatever, to talk about it, I really don’t have much to say right now,? Patterson said. ?I’m waiting to find out.?

While there has been uncertainty this week regarding the availability of Hernandez, the Nationals’ ace right-hander put the speculation to rest yesterday.

?I’m 99 percent, nobody’s going to be perfect,? Hernandez said. ?I’m going to pitch, I feel good and I’m going to make [the start].?

With a win today, Hernandez (6-2, 3.90) would tie Florida’s Dontrelle Willis for the most victories in the National League. Hernandez, who leads the NL in innings pitched (621/3) and is tied for the most games started (nine), has won five straight starts.

Hernandez threw on the side yesterday for the second straight day. On Monday, Hernandez had his knee drained of excess fluid, and coupled with visits to the trainer’s room, he feels much better than he did Saturday against the Chicago Cubs when he left the game in the seventh inning with inflammation in his right knee.

?No pain right now, so I’m throwing,? Hernandez said. ?I don’t want to do something stupid. I want to go to the mound and pitch.?

Hernandez said he first injured his right knee May9 in a 4-3 win at the Arizona Diamondbacks.

?I’m going to pitch my game,? Hernandez said. ?If I feel something, I’ll say it. Right now, I don’t feel anything.?

Ohka back in picture?

Right-hander Tomo Ohka made a strong case to be reinstated into the Nationals rotation with his performance in Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to the Brewers.

That opportunity could come Sunday in Toronto. With Vargas getting pushed up two days to fill in for Patterson, Sunday would be five days after Ohka (2-3, 4.04) last pitched, and the Nationals need someone to fill Vargas’ scheduled start. Ohka, Zach Day (1-2, 6.10 ERA), and Jon Rauch (1-3, 3.65) are the likely candidates to pitch on Sunday.

Ohka came on for a struggling Vargas with one out in the second inning. He hadn’t made a relief appearance since 2002 with the Montreal Expos, but the Nationals former No. 4 starter pitched well in mop-up duty. He pitched 52/3 scoreless innings and allowed just two singles.

?He threw strikes with all of his pitches, all of them,? Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. ?That’s what it’s all about. That’s what he hasn’t been doing. Last night he wasn’t overpowering, but he threw strikes and changed speeds and got his breaking balls over the plate.?

Ohka had not pitched since he was banished to the bullpen following his May 6 start in San Francisco when he lasted just four innings and gave up three runs on four hits on 71 pitches.

Extra bases

Outfielder Jose Guillen will sit out today’s series finale against the Brewers. Guillen, the Nationals’ home run leader with eight, has skipped the past two games in attempt to heal his sore ribs. … The Nationals played host to an open house for prospective suite owners at last night’s game. The club is selling party suites in the left-field mezzanine on a per-game basis. … Nationals general manager Jim Bowden celebrated his 44th birthday yesterday.

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