- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

BOSTON — An MRI taken on Washington Nationals right-hander Tony Armas Jr.’s throwing arm yesterday revealed swelling in his forearm, an injury that will sideline Armas temporarily and could land him on the disabled list.

Armas, who has failed to make it out of the fourth inning in his last two starts, was examined yesterday in the District by team orthopedist Ben Shaffer. He was diagnosed with synovitis and received a cortisone shot. He will be shut down for three days, after which he will be re-evaluated.

This much is certain: Armas won’t be starting any games for the Nationals in the immediate future. With only three games scheduled over the next five days, Washington can afford to skip his next turn in the rotation.

Actually, with John Patterson set to come off the 15-day disabled list tomorrow, the club needs to remove someone from the rotation. Armas would be a natural candidate, though manager Frank Robinson said a DL move isn’t in the works yet.

“I think we’re going to wait until those three days are up to see how he feels before we think about DL’ing him,” Robinson said before last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox. “This will certainly be discussed before we make a move. If it means keeping 13 pitchers or DL’ing him so we can have another arm, we’ll do it.”

Meanwhile, an MRI taken on first baseman Nick Johnson’s injured back yesterday came back negative. Johnson, who hasn’t played since Saturday, continues to be treated for a lower back strain. His status is day-to-day, though he’s hoping to return for this weekend’s series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Dissecting Livan

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire planned to talk with ace Livan Hernandez before last night’s game, hoping to draw some conclusions about the right-hander’s season-long struggles.

Hernandez was crushed for six runs and eight hits in 12/3 innings Tuesday night, equaling the shortest start of his career. The Nationals have been baffled by the veteran’s performance this year. His fastball was clocked in the low 80s on Tuesday, an indication that he might not be healthy, but Hernandez insists he’s fine.

“What is it? I don’t know,” Robinson said. “That may sound kind of weird because that’s part of my job, to figure out what it is. But I’m telling you, I don’t know.”

St. Claire was confident that Hernandez, now 5-8 with a 5.64 ERA, would be receptive to any suggestions.

“He’s very competitive, and I think he’ll make the adjustments that he needs to make,” St. Claire said Tuesday night. “He doesn’t like to go out there and do that. I think he’ll make the adjustments that he needs to.”

Thanks, Frank

When Robinson arrived at Fenway Park on Tuesday, he was stunned to find a present waiting for him: a bottle of Dom Perignon 1998 champagne, courtesy of Red Sox ace Curt Schilling.

Schilling, who recently won his 200th career game, wanted to thank Robinson for influencing him when he was a rookie with the Orioles in 1988.

“Frank, thanks for helping make it all possible,” Schilling wrote.

Robinson was taken aback by the gesture.

“I was surprised and very appreciative of it,” he said. “When someone does something out of the clear blue to show you something like that, it’s kind of special.”

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