- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

NEW YORK — Chad Cordero was back ready to pitch again last night at Shea Stadium. Whether Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta was ready to put his struggling reliever back on the mound was another question altogether.

One day after laboring to throw his fastball 80 mph against the New York Mets, Cordero found himself in an awkward position. Though he insists he’s not injured, Acta said he can’t entrust the closer’s job to him until he regains his velocity.

“I understand [Acta’s decision],” Cordero said. “It’s going to be strange to me because who knows how long that’s going to be? Hopefully it’s not very long. But in order for me to do that, I’m going to have to get in there and throw some innings. Hopefully I’m not throwing once a week. That’s not going to help me at all.”

Cordero, who spent the first two weeks of the season on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, believes his velocity issues Wednesday were a result of not having enough time to warm up in the bullpen. He met for 15 minutes after the game with Acta and general manager Jim Bowden and told both men his shoulder felt fine.

Acta, who will use Jon Rauch as his closer, will have to find ways to get Cordero work without jeopardizing key game situations.

“It’s not very easy because every day I try to do what’s best for the team,” the manager said. “That being said, we know how important Chad is to our club, too, and he has been for years. We are concerned, obviously, but we’re going to do whatever we can to accommodate him and bring him back to where we think he should be.”

Robinson watching closely

Frank Robinson attended last night’s game, and the Nationals’ former manager said he has watched the team regularly all season and isn’t worried about its sluggish start.

“If you’re going to have one of these little ruts, this is a good time to do it because you have a lot of room in front of you,” he said. “They should be all right.”

In town for one of his regular visits to Major League Baseball headquarters as part of his job with the commissioner’s office, Robinson said he’s happy with his work and doesn’t dwell on the Nationals’ decision not to bring him back following the 2006 season.

“Do I miss [managing]? No,” he said. “I think what it was, it was probably time for me to do something else. … If I was still managing, I think I could have still done the job, but I think it’s just time to get away from it.”

Lo Duca improving

Paul Lo Duca was out of the lineup for the third straight game with a swollen right hand, but the Nationals’ catcher said his condition is improving and he hopes to return in the next day or two.

Lo Duca had a CT scan yesterday that revealed no fracture in his hand, only soft tissue swelling. He’s cleared to play as long as the symptoms allow it.

“It feels a little bit better than it did yesterday, but it hurts just taking soft toss, so I can only imagine when a guy’s throwing [for real],” he said. “It’s just really frustrating, especially early in the season and we’re struggling. I want to be out there to help the team and I just can’t.

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