- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2006

The Washington Nationals’ closer is quietly regaining the All-Star form he showed a year ago.

Lost in Ryan Zimmerman’s dramatic walk-off home run Tuesday night was the fine job Chad Cordero did in relief with the Nationals trailing the Florida Marlins by a run. Cordero usually is called on to protect a slim lead rather than to prevent a deficit from getting out of hand.

Cordero entered Tuesday’s game with two outs in the eighth and struck out two of the four batters he faced. Zimmerman’s dramatic home run enabled Cordero to pick up his fourth win of the season. Cordero (4-3 with a 3.05 ERA) has more wins than any other member of the Nationals bullpen.

“I don’t mind not getting the saves and everything,” Cordero said. “Pitching in close games is the same thing, even if it’s tied or when I came in like yesterday when we were down by one. I just have to go out there and get three outs and give us a chance to come back.”

Last year in his second full season, Cordero led the majors with 47 saves and established a franchise record. The 24-year-old right-hander was named to the U.S. national team’s roster for March’s inaugural World Baseball Classic but missed most of spring training. It didn’t help matters that U.S. manager Buck Martinez used Cordero just twice for a total of 11/3 innings.

Subsequently, Cordero got off to a slow start this season, with the low point coming May 13 in Atlanta, when he surrendered a walk-off grand slam to Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur. Cordero, who has 13 saves in 15 opportunities this season, has given up eight homers.

But now fortunes appear to be changing. Before last night’s game against the Marlins, he had recorded 11 strikeouts and walked just two in his last 92/3 innings.

“I’m not leaving as many balls over the plate as I was at the beginning of the year — that’s why I was giving up all those home runs,” Cordero said. “I’m just pounding strikes a lot more.”

Armas update

In his first rehab assignment last night, Tony Armas Jr. lasted just 21/3 innings and allowed two runs on three hits for Class AA Harrisburg. He walked one and struck out four Trenton Yankees.

Armas was placed on the 15-day DL on June 23 with a right forearm strain.

Guillen out

Right fielder Jose Guillen was a pregame scratch with what was called a strained right elbow. Daryle Ward replaced Guillen against the Marlins.

According to manager Frank Robinson, Guillen injured himself while throwing. Robinson said he had no other information about the injury, and Guillen was unavailable while receiving treatment in the training room.

“I just have a sore elbow, that’s it,” Guillen said. “Swelling. I cannot swing the bat today, and we’ll take it from there. I think I hurt it yesterday. I went to the [batting] cage and started swinging, and it wasn’t feeling good.”

Guillen missed 14 games earlier this season with a strained right hamstring.

Nats on television

Three Washington-area members of the House asked the Federal Communications Commission to approve Comcast’s proposed merger with Adelphia Communications as long as Comcast agrees to go into arbitration to end its dispute with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) over televising Nationals games.

For Reps. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican; James Moran, Virginia Democrat; and Albert Wynn, Maryland Democrat, this is the latest attempt to settle a dispute that prevents many viewers from seeing most Nationals games on television.

“This dispute has denied millions of fans the opportunity to follow their team on a day-to-day basis,” the congressmen said in a prepared statement.

Added Moran: “We’re pulling out all the stops on this. The FCC is certainly within its rights to try and settle this.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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