- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

PITTSBURGH | The Washington Nationals should get one of their injured veterans back this weekend, with catcher Paul Lo Duca ready to return from a broken right hand. But they’re also prepared to lose another veteran, with left-hander Odalis Perez likely headed for the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis.

Lo Duca, out since May 9, has rehabbed at Class A Potomac and could be activated off the 15-day DL in time for this weekend’s series in Seattle.

“There’s a very good chance,” manager Manny Acta said.

Lo Duca’s return will leave the Nationals with a logjam behind the plate. Jesus Flores, 23, has flourished since taking over as the everyday catcher last month and leads the club with a .315 batting average and .554 slugging percentage. Backup Wil Nieves, who is out of minor league options, also has played well and earned rave reviews from Washington’s pitching staff.

Acta wouldn’t come right out and reveal his plan before Thursday’s game against the Pirates, but he suggested Lo Duca (who was hitting .200 when he got hurt) will share playing time with Flores.

“I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on,” the manager said. “I think even Paul has talked to you guys. We’ll answer that question that day.”

Not wanting to lose Nieves to a waiver claim, the Nationals could decide to carry three catchers and demote another position player. That would allow Acta to use Lo Duca as his designated hitter during the club’s upcoming six interleague games in Seattle and Minnesota as well as giving him the flexibility to use both Lo Duca and Flores as pinch-hitters while still keeping Nieves as an emergency catcher.

Meanwhile, Acta said Perez won’t make his scheduled start Saturday against the Mariners and could be placed on the DL with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. The Nationals are preparing to recall right-hander Tyler Clippard from Class AAA Columbus to make his second fill-in start in a week.

Perez, 2-5 with a 4.09 ERA, hasn’t pitched since June 3, when he lasted just three innings against St. Louis and complained of shoulder pain. He has played catch and said Thursday his shoulder feels better, though not enough so to allow him to make his start.

“I don’t want to be pitching uncomfortable,” he said. “I want to be ready to go 100 percent. When you pitch in pain, it’s tough to be able to stay there as long as you can. It’s hard. If I have to take my time, five or six more days or 10 more days, perfect. I just want to get it 100 percent.”

The Nationals could put Perez on the DL retroactive to June 4 so he would be eligible to return to the mound next week.

Neck sidelines Boone

Aaron Boone left Thursday’s game after five innings with a neck strain.

“It just went out on me after that first at-bat,” he said.

Dmitri Young replaced Boone, who started at first base. Boone didn’t know whether he would be ready for Friday’s game at Seattle but was hopeful the injury is nothing serious.

“I’ve had occasional neck or back issues before where I just spasm up, and usually I can get through it,” he said. “I think that would be the case with this.”



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