- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

Three-fifths of the Washington Nationals’ starting rotation is hurting.

Add right-hander Tony Armas Jr., who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm strain, to the list, and manager Frank Robinson is talking about rushing Pedro Astacio into action.

Right-hander John Patterson has what he believes is a “dead arm” from aggressive throwing during his rehabilitation. Right-hander Shawn Hill is experiencing tightness in his surgically repaired right elbow. And Livan Hernandez is feeling some pain in his right knee after shagging fly balls in Toronto.

Asked if Patterson, Hill, and Hernandez will be able to make their next scheduled starts, Robinson replied, “Don’t know. That’s a MASH group. Maybe we’ll get some healthy bodies. In the next day or two, we can make a decision on them. We really don’t have [minor league] options. I guess Astacio would be the first option, but we certainly would like to see him get another start in his rehab program.”

Astacio, 36, strained his right forearm in the team’s final exhibition game and has spent the entire season on the DL. Meanwhile, Patterson’s “dead arm” has Robinson puzzled.

According to Robinson, pitchers develop “dead arms” during spring training when they are throwing a lot in an attempt to build up arm strength. Robinson thinks Patterson’s “dead arm” is associated with his right elbow that caused him to miss two months while on the disabled list.

“It has to be,” Robinson said. “It’s not something that just popped up overnight. He hasn’t been throwing.”

Patterson, who is 1-2 with a 4.41 ERA in just six starts this season, disagrees with his manager’s diagnosis.

“Well, I’ve been throwing a lot lately,” he said. “Since that first rehab start, I’ve been throwing a lot, to try and build my arm back up. I’ve been long tossing, throwing on a lot of flat ground, things like that. I have been throwing quite a bit.”

Patterson, 28, is scheduled to start Tuesday against the Florida Marlins. Before last night’s game, he said he doesn’t see why he won’t be able to make that start.

Another signing

The Nationals yesterday signed second-round draft pick Stephen Englund, who will report to the team’s Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team in the next five to seven days.

Englund, 18, received a $515,000 signing bonus. He played shortstop in high school, but the Nationals are converting him to center field. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Englund resembles former Seattle Mariners outfielder Jay Buhner — a good athlete with size, power and a good arm.

“I’m pretty comfortable out there, even if I haven’t played it that much, but I’m pretty excited about that position,” said Englund, who was the 70th overall pick.

Englund batted .352 with four home runs, 16 RBI and six steals in just 54 at-bats this season for Bellevue (Wash.) High School. He was one of nine high school players who worked out for the Nationals at RFK Stadium before the draft. The club drafted four of them.

“I saw him work out here, and I was very impressed by him,” Robinson said. “In a very short period of time, I think he’ll be at the major league level.”

The Nationals have agreed to terms with 22 of the players they drafted, including three of their top four picks.

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