- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

Saying their bullpen is in greater need of a long reliever than a situational left-hander, the Washington Nationals optioned pitcher Ray King to Class AAA Columbus yesterday and called up Mike O’Connor.

King had 72 hours from yesterday’s roster move to accept his assignment, but the 34-year-old lefty wasn’t sure if he would. He plans to talk to his agent and general manager Jim Bowden to see if the Nationals could trade him to a team that needs a left-hander out of its bullpen; failing that, he said he might ask the club for his outright release.

“I’m going to take today and the next day and really talk to my family and talk to my agent and see what’s out there. I don’t want to make a decision, say something that could hinder me from doing some other things,” King said. “But right now, I’m not upset about anything. If I don’t go to another team and I have to go home, I’ve had a great career. I’ve had a chance to pitch for great teams, bad teams, mediocre teams. I’ve been in the World Series.”

So far this season, King had done what he does best: get lefties out. Only four of the 17 left-handers he faced had reached base against him. But closer Chad Cordero’s shoulder tendinitis has left the Nationals’ bullpen thin and forced King to pitch to 16 right-handers in his 12 appearances.

That’s where he’s been burned. Righties own a .500 batting average and .667 on-base percentage against him.

Things might have reached a low point for King on Wednesday night in Washington’s 7-2 loss to the Mets. He gave up two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning against the Mets, allowing a run-scoring bloop single from Angel Pagan when he threw wide of Nick Johnson at first.

“There’s guys out there whose numbers are worse than mine. Yeah, last night I gave up two squibblers and I get banged for two runs and today I’m out of a job,” King said. “I look around the league, and not to toot my own horn, but Chase Utley is 0-for-4 against me this year. [Ryan] Howard, [Carlos] Delgado. I gave up a hit to [Ryan] Church. I think the only [lefty] who hit me hard is [Johan] Santana. At least he’s got a Cy Young.”

O’Connor, who got to the ballpark shortly after 5:30 p.m.,pitched a scoreless sixth inning last night and picked up the win.

Cordero back by weekend

A day after his appointment with Dr. James Andrews revealed there was no new injury to his shoulder, Cordero was back with the team and said after playing long toss today, he should be available to pitch tomorrow against the Cubs.

He added that manager Manny Acta told him he’d likely start closing games again after one more appearance.

Dukes on road back

Left fielder Elijah Dukes hasn’t been patient about wanting get to back in the lineup the entire time he’s been on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. That hasn’t changed.

A day after Bowden said Dukes was “seven to 10 days away at a minimum” from returning, Dukes said he’s ready to play now and hopes he can convince the Nationals to put him out there earlier.

Dukes, who has been on the 15-day DL since injuring himself on Opening Day, has been running on a treadmill and hitting in a batting cage. He said his hamstring has no swelling or tightness.

“I’m ready, and I’m just going to try to convince them that I’m ready, and then they’ll let me go out there and play,” Dukes said.

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