- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO — The Washington Nationals will be without Jose Vidro for one to two weeks and perhaps longer after an MRI taken on the second baseman yesterday revealed a high and lateral left ankle sprain.

Vidro, who hurt himself sliding into home plate Wednesday night in Los Angeles, will be re-evaluated next week when the Nationals return to Washington. If he’s not progressing at that time, the club could put him on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Thursday.

The injury does not appear to be as serious as the Nationals initially feared. Manager Frank Robinson thought Vidro might have hurt his Achilles’ tendon. General manager Jim Bowden also expressed concerns before finding out the results.

The one-to-two-week diagnosis, though, may be a bit too optimistic. High ankle sprains, more common in football and basketball than baseball, often require a month or more to heal.

Vidro had started Washington’s first 28 games, batting .290 with four homers and 15 RBI. He will continue to be replaced at second base by Jamey Carroll, who has already performed admirably when called upon. The versatile infielder went 3-for-4 yesterday with a walk and a sacrifice bunt and is now hitting .385 in 13 games.

“It’s not easy doing what he does and being effective,” Robinson said. “It’s almost like he’s been playing every day.”

Vidro joins outfielder Terrmel Sledge, reliever Joey Eischen and a host of other players currently out with injuries. The club continues to win without their services, but Robinson concedes it’s going to be hard to keep this up much longer.

“It affects you because the people you have in roles on the bench now have to step in,” he said. “It’s just not as good a ballclub. For a short period of time, it can hold up, but not for the long term.”

Long and tall man

He’s a starter by trade, but Nationals right-hander Jon Rauch just might be suited to be a long reliever. The tallest player in major league history at 6-foot-11, Rauch was the savior of Friday night’s win over the Giants after throwing three hitless innings in relief of Tomo Ohka.

In four appearances since getting recalled from Class AAA New Orleans, Rauch has posted a 3.24 ERA, allowing just four hits in 81/3 innings. Long relief isn’t typically thought of as a vital role, but Robinson believes Rauch could thrive there.

“He can if he understands the role and accepts it,” Robinson said. “It’s the one role that’s not glamorous, because you only think about the starter, the closer and the set-up men. So he’s kind of forgotten unless he’s the winning pitcher. … You hope he doesn’t become too important to you, because then it means you’re getting some ugly starts.”

Rauch said he doesn’t care that he’s not starting and that he’s happy to help out any way he can, mirroring several of his unheralded teammates who have been contributing of late.

“One thing about this clubhouse: Everybody’s going to step up to help each other out,” Rauch said. “If one guy goes down, someone else is going to come in to pick up the slack.”

Extra bases

First baseman Wil Cordero, on the 15-day DL with an injured knee since the first week of the season, has rejoined the club to continue his rehab. Cordero, who underwent arthroscopic surgery April11 to repair a torn meniscus, has been hitting and doing conditioning work but has not begun running. …

Not only have the Nationals started the season impressively, they’ve done it against top competition. Of the seven opponents Washington has faced, six entered play yesterday with winning or .500 records: Braves, Marlins, Mets, Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks. Only the Phillies (14-17 after winning yesterday) are under .500.

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