- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

JUPITER, Fla. — Time is running out for Pedro Astacio to work himself into regular-season form, but he’s not worried about it.

Six days before Monday’s opener against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, the Washington Nationals right-hander has a 10.50 ERA over four exhibition starts and 12 innings. But manager Frank Robinson said he’s not concerned about the veteran and insisted Astacio is in no danger of losing his spot in the rotation.

“No, I’m not concerned. If you’re concerned, then you’re worried about something, and I’m not worried about anything,” Robinson said.

Astacio is scheduled to make one more spring training start Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

“I’ll continue to work and try to do my job,” said Astacio, who fell to 0-2 after yesterday’s 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Desperate for a starting pitcher after Brian Lawrence was lost for the season with a right shoulder injury, the Nationals signed Astacio to a one-year, $700,000 incentive-laden deal Feb. 27. Astacio arrived at spring training nearly two weeks after pitchers and catchers reported, which could explain why he isn’t sharp.

Astacio, who allowed seven runs on 10 hits against the Cardinals, said his problem was falling behind hitters.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with him — he just made some bad pitches, walked the leadoff guy in the second and third innings, and that started everything,” pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. “He worked behind the hitters and made a couple of mistakes. Besides that, he came back and threw the ball well in the fourth and fifth innings.”

But the damage already had been done. Aided by poor Nationals defense, the Cardinals scored three runs in the second and four in the third. Cardinals pitcher Jason Marquis belted a two-run homer to right field that left Astacio in a 7-0 hole.

Opening Day DL

The Nationals officially placed all their injured players on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 24. The group included pitchers Luis Ayala (elbow), Ryan Drese (shoulder) and Brian Lawrence (shoulder), shortstop Cristian Guzman (shoulder) and catcher/first baseman Robert Fick (elbow).

The Nationals will have to move some of these injured players to the 60-day DL to clear room on their 40-man roster for nonroster invitees like shortstop Royce Clayton, who will make the Opening Day roster. These moves reduced the roster to 33 players.

Of the injured players, Fick probably is the closest to returning. Fick, who underwent right elbow surgery to remove bone chips during training camp, would be eligible to come off the DL on April 8. The Nationals won’t finalize their roster until after Saturday’s final exhibition game.

Extra bases

Ayala will undergo season-ending “Tommy John” elbow surgery Thursday in Los Angeles. Dr. Lewis Yocum will perform the procedure. … First baseman Daryle Ward was a game-time scratch with a severe migraine.

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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