- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A meeting with Dr. James Andrews on Monday produced some good news for Washington Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada.

Andrews said there was nothing wrong with Estrada’s right elbow other than the ulnar nerve inflammation that put him on the disabled list May 9. He put Estrada on a rehab program, and the catcher hopes it could have him back on the field in a month.

We already knew [about the inflammation], and that’s all I was hoping it was, Estrada said. I thought I was getting pain in my elbow from my ligament, and I was worried about that. So that gave me some peace of mind.

The 31-year-old, who signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with Washington in February, had offseason surgery on his elbow for the first time. He thought it would clear up some nagging problems he had with his throwing arm, but instead it led to more trouble for Estrada.

He missed all of spring training trying to strengthen his elbow, played in 17 games and went back on the disabled list after feeling like he was throwing change-ups trying to catch runners stealing second.

Estrada conceded he rushed himself back from the surgery and is hoping he will have time to correct the problems now.

Different people respond in different ways to surgery, Estrada said. I tried to come out of the gates in spring training like I was 100 percent. I was fooling myself after playing the game for so long. I didn’t do myself any good or the team. I want to get myself ready to finish the season strong. I want to be 100 percent at the end of the season.

Kearns’ elbow OK

An MRI on Austin Kearns’ right elbow showed no damage, and manager Manny Acta said the right fielder should be back in a couple days.

Kearns, who turned 28 yesterday, injured his elbow during batting practice Saturday. It was swollen when he woke up Sunday, and he hasn’t played since.

He said he likely would try hitting today.

Defense improving

When Acta became the Nationals’ manager before the 2007 season, one of his biggest objectives was to mold Washington into a team that wouldn’t give away outs on offense and miss opportunities to convert them on defense. In one of those pursuits, he’s seeing a big change.

Washington has made just 24 errors this season, third best in the National League, a season after finishing fourth worst in the NL with 109.

They might not be making many spectacular plays, but the Nationals at least aren’t extending innings with fielding mistakes.

Having a healthy Cristian Guzman at shortstop certainly has helped. He has made only four errors this season and allowed Felipe Lopez, who had 20 last season at short, to move back to second base. Lopez also has four errors this year.

Everybody knows he’s a natural shortstop, and here and there he continues to work on turning double plays, Acta said. He’s got such a great arm at second base. He can get away with a lot of things other guys can’t.

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