- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

NEW YORK — Paul Lo Duca’s injured right hand still hadn’t shown signs of improvement yesterday, so the Washington Nationals summoned Wil Nieves from Class AAA Columbus last night to ensure they had two healthy catchers.

Lo Duca, who was hit by a pitch on the back of his hand Sunday, tried again yesterday to take batting practice but said he couldn’t get the bat all the way through the zone without feeling pain.

“I get sharp pain,” he said before the Nationals’ game against the New York Mets. “It’s a little bit better than it was yesterday, but I just can’t swing. I want to go out there just as bad as anybody, but I’d be swinging one-handed. It’s just not fair to the team.”

The area above Lo Duca’s right ring finger and pinkie remains swollen and discolored. The original X-rays taken were negative, but the club may have him undergo more tests to determine whether there is structural damage.

The Nationals are holding off placing the veteran catcher on the disabled list for now, but he could be headed there within the next few days if his condition doesn’t improve.

“I don’t know if it’s going to get better overnight,” he said. “If it doesn’t get better overnight, I’ll start getting a little worried.”

With Lo Duca sidelined, Johnny Estrada was the only healthy catcher on Washington’s roster going into last night’s game. So the club purchased Nieves’ contract from Columbus and told him to get to Shea Stadium as fast as possible.

Nieves, a defensively gifted catcher who hit .240 with two RBI with the Clippers, was expected to land at La Guardia Airport at 7:40 p.m. last night. The Nationals hoped to have him in uniform and available by the middle of the game.

The Nationals designated infielder Aaron Boone, who has never been behind the plate as a professional, as the emergency catcher until Nieves arrived.

Schroder demoted

To make room for Nieves on the 25-man roster, the Nationals optioned reliever Chris Schroder to Columbus.

The right-hander appeared in only two games in two weeks, posted a 3.38 ERA and served as the eighth man in a bullpen that figured to be pared down to seven soon anyway.

Schroder, who has bounced back and forth between Class AAA and Washington the last two seasons, said he could be in line for several promotions and demotions before the year is over.

“It could be worse,” the 29-year-old said. “I could be down there the whole time. Obviously, they think I can pitch here. And there’s no other guy in the bullpen with options, so they don’t have a lot of choices in that regard. I think everybody here on the coaching staff has a good outlook on me and thinks I’ll be back at the next opportunity.”

Tragedy at Shea

The Mets observed a moment of silence before last night’s game for Antonio Nararainsami, the 36-year-old Brooklyn man who died Tuesday night after falling from an escalator following New York’s 6-0 win over Washington.

Nararainsami, according to police, attended the game with his two daughters and other relatives. Walking down an escalator that had been turned off, he apparently slipped, went over the railing and fell at least two levels to a lobby floor.

He was taken to a nearby hospital and died later in the evening.

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