- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With five roster moves yesterday, none of them terribly surprising, the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day roster is set.

The Nationals placed catcher Johnny Estrada, who has missed all of spring training with a sore right elbow, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 21. They also optioned pitchers John Lannan and Chris Schroder to Class AAA Columbus, outrighted outfielder Ryan Langerhans to Columbus and reassigned infielder Pete Orr to minor league camp.

None of the moves came as a major surprise, although Orr went 1-for-1 against Atlanta yesterday and improved his spring training average to .389.

Signed to a minor league deal after making three straight Opening Day rosters with the Braves, Orr hoped he could crack the Nationals’ roster. But in a crowded infield that already includes a logjam at first and second base and third baseman Aaron Boone off the bench, Orr was out of luck.

“There’s a lot of things that go through your head,” he said. “You wonder if you made the right choices. But you’ve got to take it like a man and earn it. I’ll just go to Triple-A and try to earn my way back to the big leagues, wherever it may be.”

Manager Manny Acta praised Orr’s performance in spring training but said “it’s a numbers deal.”

“We have whoever doesn’t win that job [at second base], and we have Willie Harris, who we like what he brings,” Acta said.

He also said Lannan “might be here pretty soon,” depending on whether starter Shawn Hill’s arm troubles keep him on the disabled list past April 13 — the first time the Nationals likely would need a fifth starter.

Pregame lineup

Opera singer Denyce Graves, former “American Idol” finalist Elliot Yamin and F-16 fighter jets from the DC Air National Guard will be among the special guests when Nationals Park opens Sunday night.

The Nationals confirmed President Bush will throw out the first pitch, escorted to the mound by team owner Ted Lerner, manager Manny Acta and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Graves, a native of the District and a graduate of the Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts, will sing the national anthem.

Other pregame events will include the showing of a special video on the Nationals’ 4,811-square foot video board, the unfurling of two large American flags in the outfield and a flyover from the F-16s. Mayor Adrian Fenty will be on hand to announce “Washington … Let’s Play Ball.”

Yamin will sing “God Bless America” before the seventh-inning stretch.

Nationals Park will open at 3:30 p.m., more than 4½ hours before the first pitch.

Rough ending for Chico

Matt Chico would have liked a better end to a spring training in which he revamped his delivery and won a tough competition for a spot in the Nationals’ rotation. But in giving up five runs in 52/3 innings yesterday, he found something to fix with his new high leg kick.

The delivery boosted Chico’s fastball from 85 mph to 88 mph, and because of that he said he relied on the pitch too much in his third start since changing his throwing motion.

“I threw maybe 80 percent fastballs the last three innings,” he said. “I was mixing them up, getting them off the fastball. In the last three, I just didn’t do it.”

Acta said Chico needs to make the high leg kick compatible with his throwing motion from the stretch. Chico was unable to maintain the height of his kick (and thus the same velocity) from the stretch.

Extra bases

Acta said first baseman Dmitri Young came out of Tuesday’s minor league game without problems. He played there again yesterday because of stiffness in his back stemming from a pulled side muscle earlier this spring. …

Left fielder Elijah Dukes also has not traveled with the team the last two days. And while Acta wasn’t sure whether Dukes would play today, he said he would definitely play in Saturday’s exhibition and be ready for Sunday’s regular-season opener.

Tim Lemke reported from the District.

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