- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 2, 2005

Even though he doesn’t know if he’ll be managing the Washington Nationals next season, Frank Robinson wasn’t too pleased when he saw next season’s schedule.

The Nationals will play 28 of their first 42 games on the road. This season, the Nationals were forced to open on the road, playing their first nine games and 30 of their first 52 away from RFK Stadium, which was being converted into a baseball stadium for the first time in 34 years.

RFK can’t be used as an excuse for next season’s road-heavy early portion of the schedule.

“I don’t know what [the schedule makers] go about or they’re thinking when making up a schedule,” Robinson said. “All I know, 28 of the first 42 are on the road. I thought it was going to be a little more balanced for us, a little bit more favorable for ‘06. It’s tough to open up on the road and play that many games on the road, especially early.”

The schedule-makers obviously failed to take into account the District’s long baseball tradition. From 1952 to 1971, the Washington Senators opened at home each season. That’s back when the president officially opened the season with a ceremonial first pitch.

But since the Nationals open on the road, President Bush can either throw out the first pitch at the Nationals home opener April11 against the New York Mets or do so in the opener in another city.

“I think with baseball back in the nation’s capital that should be a nice gesture on Major League Baseball’s part that we would open up at home each year,” Robinson said. “Will that happen? No.” (Schedule can be found on C15)

Wilkerson’s hand

The scoreboard flashed 99mph. Robinson said it was at least 100. Nevertheless, the fastball by Phillies closer Billy Wagner that struck Brad Wilkerson’s right wrist in Friday’s game appears to have limited the remainder of the outfielder’s season.

Wilkerson was held out of yesterday’s starting lineup, but he pinch-hit for catcher Gary Bennett in the eighth and struck out. He doesn’t expect to start in today’s season finale.

“It hurts, but I’d say it’s more precautionary than anything I think,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson, who has had right arm and shoulder problems all season, has had a disappointing year.

Last season, Wilkerson was the Montreal Expos’ player of the year when he hit .255 with 32 home runs, 67 RBI and a .498 slugging percentage. But he entered yesterday’s game hitting .248 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI and a .405 slugging percentage.

Chief is available

Nationals closer Chad Cordero has been available to pitch in every game of this season-ending series against the Phillies, but there haven’t been any save opportunities.

Cordero, who leads the majors with 47 saves, sat out of the previous two series — against the Mets and Marlins — to rest a tired right arm.

“I told them yesterday that I was kind of bored out in the bullpen and I wanted to go in there and pitch,” Cordero said. “I don’t like the fact that I’m not going to go out there and pitch now. I like being thrown out there and pitching instead of being a spectator.”

Extra bases

Nationals veteran left-handed reliever John Halama’s season came to an end in the sixth inning yesterday when Kenny Lofton hit a liner back to the mound, bruising Halama’s left hand. Halama relieved starter John Patterson with two outs and runners on first and second. The ball deflected off Halama’s pitching hand to second baseman Jamey Carroll, who threw out Lofton at first. … With yesterday’s 1-for-3 performance, rookie third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.400) has hit safely in eight of his last nine games with five doubles. … Nationals hitters struck out a season-high 17 times in yesterday’s game. Phillies starter Brett Myers whiffed 12 Nationals in 62/3 innings. The club’s previous season high was 13 on May10 at the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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