- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Washington Nationals closer Chad Cordero’s ailing right shoulder will not cause him to spend any more time on the disabled list, the club learned yesterday after Cordero was examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

An enhanced MRI of Cordero’s shoulder confirmed he has rotator cuff tendinitis but revealed no further damage. The right-hander will be able to pitch while doing exercises to strengthen his shoulder.

“We were very pleased,” Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. “They did the [enhanced] MRI today and Dr. Andrews was encouraged. He said [Cordero has] just got weakness. He needs to build it up. He says there’s no reason to disable him, just get him to work harder and build up the arm strength.”

Bowden said Andrews’ office set up a new program for Cordero to balance the muscles in and around his arm and build up his velocity. Cordero had missed the first two weeks of the season with tendinitis, and was unable to throw harder than 80 mph last Wednesday on a chilly night in New York.

Cordero said the episode was the result of cold weather and not having enough time to warm up. His velocity was between 84 and 87 mph last weekend against Florida and Atlanta, but the Nationals and Cordero’s agent, Larry Reynolds, decided to have him see Andrews after Cordero felt a clicking in his shoulder Monday night.

“He’s not available tonight, and we’ll see what he does tomorrow and the next day,” Bowden said. “But the most important thing right now is to carry out his program and get him back out there pitching.”

Pena back in lineup

Two days after an 0-for-4 outing against the Braves reduced him to tears, left fielder Wily Mo Pena started for the Nationals last night. Manager Manny Acta gave Pena Tuesday night off to give him time to clear his head and to find a better matchup against Atlanta’s John Smoltz.

Pena, who entered last night’s game batting .100, said the time off helped.

“That day, I was thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ ” Pena said. “I just started watching some video of last year. You can’t take everything in. You have to stay positive.”

Pena was supposed to miss up to a month after tearing his left oblique muscle March 12. That prognosis held up; he was activated from the 15-day disabled list April 13. But the callup was fast-tracked because of injuries to Elijah Dukes and Dmitri Young and came after Pena had just two at-bats for Class AAA Columbus on a rehab assignment.

Pena said he has worked to get up to major league speed as quick as possible.

“I knew I wasn’t ready, so I just tried to do the best to be ready to help the team,” Pena said.

Belliard accepts bench

Second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who is hitting .214 and has not started in six games, said he’s not bothered by watching Felipe Lopez play in his place.

“There’s nothing negative about me. I’m positive all the time,” Belliard said. “I cheer for him, he’s playing every day. He’s helping the team to do well.”

Lopez entered last night having gone 8-for-23 with five runs, an RBI and a stolen base in the five games he had started. Four of those were at second base, the other coming at shortstop last Sunday to give Cristian Guzman a day off.

Extra bases

First baseman Dmitri Young, back from his appointment at the University of Miami to examine his sprained lower back, said he’s not thinking about when he will return to the Nationals’ lineup. “The deal with injuries, people always put a timetable on that and an expectation of when you should be ready versus when your body tells you you’re ready. They’re two different thing,” Young said. …

Left fielder Elijah Dukes is due back in court in Tampa, Fla., this morning for a hearing to determine whether he violated probation stemming from a January 2007 misdemeanor charge for marijuana possession. Bowden said both the left fielder, who is on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring, and Young are “seven to 10 days away at the minimum.”

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