- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reliever Chad Cordero took a small step toward returning to the Washington Nationals’ bullpen yesterday, playing catch for the first time since tearing a muscle in his side April 29. In Cordero’s mind, however, that step was bigger than it seems.

The right-hander, who has saved 113 games for the Nationals over the past three seasons, has been absent from the ninth inning this year with a number of shoulder problems, including tendinitis that already put him on the disabled list once this season before his current injury.

Throwing a baseball for the first time since he tore the latissimus dorsi - a triangular flat muscle in the lumbar region - Cordero said he was a little nervous about what might happen. But he felt no pain in his shoulder throwing from 45 to 60 feet.

“I didn’t have any soreness or anything like that,” Cordero said. “Once I got used to throwing again, I could do everything. Not throwing for four weeks, I was kind of anxious to see what would happen, but it went well.”

Cordero will throw every other day for the next two weeks, increasing the distance by 15 feet each time. He can then resume throwing from a mound, but his return is still a ways off. However minor the progress was yesterday, it was at least a move forward.

“I wasn’t going to go out there and blow it out, nothing like that,” Cordero said. “I’m just trying to work my way back in.”

It’s a rare occurrence when Nationals manager Manny Acta makes a trip out of the dugout to argue a call with an umpire. Yesterday, he made two.

Acta won one of those appeals when Dmitri Young’s eighth-inning triple was changed to a homer. The ball bounced off a cement wall that sits about three feet behind the center-field fence, but both the wall and the fence are green, which presents a depth perception problem from home plate.

“I thought the ball, when it hit, it bounced too far away,” Acta said. “When it hits a pad, it doesn’t bounce that far away. I went up to [home plate umpire] Jerry [Meals] and asked him to check with the other umpires.”

In the 11th inning, however, second base umpire Paul Emmel called Gabe Kapler safe on a stolen base, ruling he had slid around a Cristian Guzman tag.

“He thought he missed the tag, which he didn’t. [Kapler] was clearly out,” Acta said. “We saw the replay and everything. We saw the video. But he’s human, so that’s what happens.”

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had the day off in the truest sense of the word, staying put in the 11th inning with the Nationals down a run while Wil Nieves pinch hit for pitcher Saul Rivera. Both he and Acta said doctors told Zimmerman to give his sore shoulder a complete day without activity.

“If I go and have to warm up and take 20 to 25 swings, we’re right back to ground zero,” Zimmerman said. “I was advised to take a day off, and that’s what I did.”

He said the shoulder isn’t preventing him from playing, but he could take another day off today if it hasn’t improved.

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