- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2006

VIERA, Fla. — It was supposed to be the night the Washington Nationals showed off their big stars, Jose Guillen and Alfonso Soriano.

Only Guillen kept his part of the deal. For the first time this spring, Guillen started a game. Soriano, meanwhile, refused to play left field.

Batting third, Guillen went 0-for-2 with two weak groundouts to the right side of the infield. He advanced baserunners in the first inning with a groundout back to Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny and also made two putouts in right field. George Lombard replaced him in right in the top of the fourth inning.

“First day no pain, pain-free, and all those pitches looked like they were 200 miles per hour,” Guillen said. “I haven’t been up there in a long time. I wanted to see some different pitchers, but I went against Penny, and it made it a little harder to get some good swings.”

Guillen wanted to play the entire game, but manager Frank Robinson limited his top offensive weapon from last season to just two at-bats.

Until last night, Guillen had spent all of spring training rehabilitating his surgically repaired left shoulder. During his rehab regimen, Guillen injured a tendon in his left wrist that shut him down for another week. When surgery that would cost him three months was recommended, Guillen sought a second medical opinion and was told seven to 10 days of rest would cure the problem.

“I feel good except for the comfort I’m going to get,” he said. “I just need my timing now, and that’s pretty much it. I wanted to take a third at-bat, and Frank told me, ‘No, get out of here, get out of here, don’t rush anything.’”

Guillen led the Nationals in virtually every offensive category last season: runs (81), hits (156), total bases (264), home runs (24), and RBI (76).

Armas’ debut

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. looked sharp in his first spring start. Armas pitched three scoreless innings, allowed one hit, walked one and struck out two.

The only complaint the tall Venezuelan had was his pitch count. Armas threw 47 pitches, which he thought was too many for three innings of work. But after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Armas was pretty satisfied with his pitching.

“I think I threw too many pitches right out but was happy that everything came out good,” Armas said.

With the uncertainty of the starting pitching, especially at the back of the rotation, Armas conceivably could be the No. 3 starter behind ace Livan Hernandez and John Patterson.

Last night Armas worked on all his pitches except his changeup. He has missed most of spring training while playing for Venezuela at the inaugural World Baseball Classic. However, Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo used Armas for just 12/3 innings in the tournament.

Though he is behind most of the other pitchers in camp. Armas said he is satisfied as long as he has his health after going through yet another injury-plagued season because of a chronically sore right shoulder.

“I feel like I don’t have to worry about something hurting or something tweaking,” he said.

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