- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

Catcher Paul Lo Duca will start a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac tomorrow to get his injured right hand back into playing shape.

Lo Duca, who sustained a contusion on the hand when he was hit with a pitch April 13, will join left fielder Elijah Dukes on the Potomac Nationals’ roster, and manager Manny Acta said he could be back in the majors after three or four games.

“He’s not a guy with a long swing, a power hitter guy who needs so much time,” Acta said. “He wasn’t able to grip a bat.”

Lo Duca took batting practice yesterday and said afterward he had no problems controlling the bat. The hand doesn’t give him any problems throwing, and he feels like a few days seeing live pitching should be enough to get him ready.

“[My hand] hurts a little bit when I roll over a bad pitch, so maybe that’s a good thing,” Lo Duca said. “It’s good enough to play.”

His return could leave the Nationals with a tough decision — Lo Duca or Wil Nieves?

Nieves had seven hits in his last four games entering last night’s game, including his first major league homer to beat the Cubs 5-3 on Friday night.

Nieves has always been known as a solid defensive catcher, but his improvement on offense and the fact that he is out of minor league options could entice the Nationals to keep him on the roster. That will be tougher when Lo Duca, Dukes and Dmitri Young come off the disabled list.

“Obviously, he’s impressed a lot of people,” Acta said. “It will be a push, unless we decide to keep three [catchers].”

Dukes’s rehab begins

Dukes, who was the designated hitter for Potomac in his first rehab appearance there yesterday, went 0-for-2, was hit by a pitch and thrown out stealing.

General manager Jim Bowden said Dukes was clocked at 4.2 seconds from home to first, a good sign considering his ability to run was the chief thing the Nationals were monitoring.

The left fielder has been on the 15-day disabled list since he left the Nationals’ March 30 opener with a strained right hamstring.

Bowden said Dukes might play the field today.

Young seeing chiropractor

First baseman Young, who has been on the disabled list since April 8 with a sprained lower back, is seeing a chiropractor to relieve the discomfort and adjust his back. But he said he’s still in enough pain to prevent him from doing any baseball activities.

“It’s always frustrating when you have an injury, but it gets frustrating when there’s a timetable put on it and you don’t need it,” Young said. “It’s always a problem when things aren’t ready and they’re supposed to be.”

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