- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

HOUSTON — Suspensions for Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson and reliever Felix Rodriguez likely will be handed down tomorrow, but all team members should be in uniform for Tuesday’s home opener at RFK Stadium.

Bob Watson, Major League Baseball’s vice president of on-field operations, met with Robinson for nearly an hour before last night’s game against the Houston Astros and said he’ll probably make a ruling after the weekend.

There’s not much for Watson to consider. Because Rodriguez hit New York Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca on Thursday night at Shea Stadium after umpires issued a warning to both benches, the veteran reliever is subject to a three-game suspension. Robinson also faces a one-game suspension; he won’t appeal and he might be willing to serve it as soon as tomorrow.

“I would rather it not be any of these three days at home,” Robinson said. “Each one of those days is almost going to be like the first game. I’d prefer to be in a position where I’m managing the ballclub.”

The only decision up to Watson is whether or not to suspend Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen for walking toward Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez with bat in hand after getting plunked in the fifth.

“That’s something I’m really looking into,” said Watson, who spent a few minutes talking to Guillen on the field during batting practice yesterday. (Guillen was not in the starting lineup last night after bruising his left forearm Friday.)

Even if he doles out suspensions, Watson won’t prevent any Nationals from participating in Tuesday’s game at RFK.

“I won’t do it on the home opener,” he said. “Those are special days.”

With the Mets coming to town and Martinez scheduled to start Wednesday night, Watson said both teams and the umpiring crew will be put on alert.

“That’s a program where the tolerance level is very low,” Watson said.

Schneider, Watson to sit

Two of Washington’s slumping hitters will get the next two days off.

Robinson said he plans to sit both catcher Brian Schneider and center fielder Brandon Watson today and tomorrow against Astros left-handers Andy Pettitte and Wandy Rodriguez.

Marlon Byrd will start in center field for Watson, who came into last night’s game with only two hits in 16 at-bats. Wiki Gonzalez will replace Schneider behind the plate.

Schneider wasn’t elated with Robinson’s decision to give him two days off, but the Nationals catcher couldn’t fault his manager’s reasoning. Schneider entered last night’s game without a hit in 13 at-bats this season and hadn’t even gotten a ball out of the infield.

“The thing is, I’ve gone 0-for-12 I don’t know how many times in my career,” he said. “It’s just never happened at the start of the season. I’m just trying to treat it the same as if it was in the middle of the season, not put too much pressure on me. There’s 158 more games left. … The hits will come when they come, and hopefully sooner than later.”

Sure enough, Schneider blooped a single to left in his first at-bat last night.

Extra bases

Though he’s making strides in left field, Alfonso Soriano still has some things to learn. In Friday night’s game, he failed to properly catch Lance Berkman’s third-inning sacrifice fly and then threw sidearm to cutoff man Ryan Zimmerman.

However, Robinson said he has been pleased for the most part with Soriano’s defense and cautioned against trying to teach him too much too soon.

“We have to give him a little at a time,” Robinson said. “We can’t force-feed him. What I really want right now is just to make him comfortable.” …

Astros second baseman Craig Biggio singled in the first inning last night, making him the 43rd player with 2,800 hits. …

Reliever Jason Bergmann was optioned to Class AAA New Orleans following last night’s game, clearing a roster spot for right-hander Ryan Drese to be activated off the 15-day disabled list. Drese will start today’s game, his first appearance since undergoing right shoulder surgery last September.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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