- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

VIERA, Fla. — It’s an open competition no one seems to want to win.

Colby Lewis took his turn auditioning for one of the four open spots in the Washington Nationals’ rotation, and like most of the other 11 contenders, the right-hander did not leave a good impression. He worked two innings and allowed four runs on six hits against the Atlanta Braves. Lewis surrendered four consecutive singles to open the game and fell into a 2-0 hole after the first inning.

“I thought he had a rough beginning, but at least he wasn’t wild,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “I think he came back after the first four hitters and threw the ball OK. It was the first outing for him other than facing our own guys in intrasquad.”

Because it was his first Grapefruit League action, Lewis didn’t think he pitched too poorly and gave a lot of credit to the Braves batters.

“It just seemed like they were on everything,” Lewis said. “Everything I threw up there, it seemed like they were putting a bat on it. It could’ve been one of those days that it could’ve gone either way. I was pounding the strike zone, and they could’ve gotten the totally opposite end of the spectrum. It could have gone either way in my mind. Otherwise, I’m healthy, and my arm feels great.”

Lewis left his first spring start with an ERA of 18.00. He went 10-9 for the Texas Rangers in 2003 but underwent right rotator cuff surgery in May 2004, then sat out all of 2005 with lingering shoulder soreness from his operation.

“Colby, he obviously won double digits in the big leagues before,” Acta said. “He’s coming back. It’s been two years since his surgery, pitching over 160 innings in Triple-A. That means his arm is sound. He’s always been a highly touted guy and a bulldog-type of guy. He goes after hitters.”

Lee debuts

Veteran first baseman Travis Lee, who missed the first five Grapefruit League games because of a strained left oblique, went 1-for-2 with a double, two RBI and a walk in his debut yesterday.

Lee is competing with Larry Broadway and Robert Fick for the Opening Day starting job at first base while Nick Johnson recovers from a broken leg.

“It was fine. I didn’t feel anything,” Lee said. “I played yesterday over in the intrasquad game in the morning over on the minor league side and felt good then, and I’ve [been] feeling good the last four days.”

Lee collided at home plate with Braves catcher Corky Miller in the first inning. He tried to score from first base on Brian Schneider’s double but was gunned down on Edgar Renteria’s relay throw from shallow left field.

“I had nowhere to go,” Lee said. “The throw kept coming up the line. That’s the last thing I want to do in spring training. I wanted to slide. I kind of slowed up because I didn’t know where to go, and all of a sudden I’m on him. So I just fell on top of him, and that was it.”

Extra bases

Right-hander John Patterson will pitch tomorrow in an accelerated game instead of his next scheduled Grapefruit League start against the Houston Astros at Space Coast Stadium. Jason Simontacchi will start in Patterson’s place. …

The March 17 Grapefruit League game against the New York Mets has been added to the club’s radio broadcast schedule.

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