- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

One day after Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson said Jose Vidro could be limited to pinch-hitting duties for the rest of the season because of a bad right knee, a team doctor said the veteran second baseman could be back in the lineup within four days.

Dr. Bruce Thomas said before last night’s game against Philadelphia that Vidro, who is battling patellar tendinitis, was showing signs of improvement after receiving a cortisone shot. The club decided to postpone a planned MRI exam on Vidro’s knee while waiting to see how he responds to the shot. Either way, Thomas does not believe Vidro will miss the rest of the season.

“I really don’t think so,” he said. “I’d be surprised at that. We’re only 12-13 hours from the end of the game last night, and he already has a nice little improvement.”

That’s a far better prognosis than the club gave Thursday, when Vidro was forced to come out of the Nationals’ game in Atlanta because of inflammation. Afterward, Robinson speculated his No.3 hitter would be unable to play in the field or run the bases through the season’s final five weeks, a statement he seemed to stick to yesterday afternoon.

“Whether he’ll play again, I don’t know,” Robinson said.

Vidro, who has dealt with the same injury for nearly two years and underwent surgery last September, said there wasn’t a specific play that worsened his condition.

“No, it’s been like this a couple days now,” he said. “I was playing through it. I knew something was not right. … I’ll let you know more tomorrow.”

Zimmerman comes to D.C.

Ryan Zimmerman couldn’t wait to start hitting at RFK Stadium, so the Nationals’ first-round draft pick grabbed a bat early yesterday afternoon and joined hitting coach Tom McCraw on the field for some extra batting practice.

“To be honest, I’ve never hit on this field,” the 20-year-old third baseman said. “I just wanted to see what it was like.”

Zimmerman didn’t get a chance to see what it looked like at 7:05 p.m., though. Robinson kept him on the bench for the second straight night, sticking with veteran Vinny Castilla at third.

The manager said he has no set plan for settling on a starting third baseman the rest of the way. He didn’t want to sit Castilla one night after he went 2-for-5 with four RBI, but he may give the nod to the rookie tonight.

Zimmerman, who struck out as a pinch-hitter Thursday in his first career plate appearance, received ticket requests from all kind of friends and family members from the area (he grew up in Virginia Beach). They didn’t get to see him in the lineup, but that was OK with him.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Zimmerman said. “I’m just trying to come up here and learn as much as I can. If I get thrown out there, that’s fine. Whatever they say, that’s cool.”

Zimmerman didn’t sit on the bench for long, though. He entered in the fourth inning as part of a double switch, made a nice play to start a 5-4-3 double play and roped a double to left-center for his first career hit.

Injury updates

Ryan Drese likely will undergo right shoulder surgery in California on Sept. 12 or 13, Thomas said. Drese has a partially torn labrum, but the extent of the injury will determine how long he is out. If orthopedic specialist Lewis Yocum can perform arthroscopic surgery, Drese would miss three months. If the shoulder needs to be repaired fully, he would be out six months and could miss the start of the 2006 season.

Meanwhile, reliever Luis Ayala reported tightness in his elbow after surrendering the game-winning homer to Andruw Jones on Thursday. Ayala, who had not pitched in 11 days before that, has been shut down again, and his return is uncertain.

Also, Tony Armas reported no problems with his shoulder after Thursday’s game (in which he surrendered seven runs over four innings). “I really don’t know what it is,” Robinson said of Armas’ struggles. “I have no answer for Tony right now.”

Extra bases

Rick Short, who was called up from Class AAA New Orleans yesterday along with outfielders Brandon Watson and Kenny Kelly, said he wasn’t disappointed his season-long pursuit of a .400 batting average has ended.

“I experienced first-hand how hard it is,” said Short, who finished at .383. “It’s [darn] near impossible. But it was fun. … Just to make a run at it was fun.” …

Esteban Loaiza will start tomorrow’s series finale on three days’ rest for the Nationals. He will be opposed by Phillies rookie and Annapolis native Gavin Floyd, who is replacing the injured Robinson Tejeda.

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