Natterings: Castilla Will Sit

Castilla should return for the home opener

Welcome to the debut of Natterings, a new regular feature here a Capitol Dugout.com. Come here to find the latest news about players on the Nationals, the rest of the NL East and the Nats' upcoming opponent.

Natterings: Castilla still ailing

The Nationals
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3B Vinny Castilla sat out Tuesday night's game in Atlanta and will again sit out Wednesday's series finale because of a "pinching" feeling in his right shoulder. Castilla said he had trouble throwing the ball overhand to first base Monday but that the injury does not affect his swing. He'll receive treatment the next two days and expects to be back in the lineup Thursday for Washington's home opener against Arizona. Utility INF Jamey Carroll started at third Tuesday in Castilla's place and batted second.
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OF Ryan Church made his first start of the season in center field Tuesday, with OF Brad Wilkerson shifting over to left field. Manager Frank Robinson had wanted to use this alignment since Opening Day, but chose to use Church in left field until his strained groin fully healed.
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RHP Chad Cordero earned the first save in Nationals history Tuesday with a scoreless ninth inning against the Braves. Cordero, whose inning was halted in the middle by a 31-minute rain delays, had already won two games in relief.
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RHP Esteban Loaiza pitched very well for the second straight outing on Tuesday, but left trailing 3-1. Washington eventually came back to beat the Braves, but the win went to RHP reliever Luis Ayala.

The Diamondbacks
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RHP Greg Aquino, on the 15-day disabled list with an irritated ulna nerve, won't pitch for at least 10 days. But if the reliever experiences more pain and discomfort in his tender elbow, the Diamondbacks will consider the next step, which likely will be nerve transposition surgery.
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LF Luis Gonzalez has now hit in all eight of Arizona's games and on Tuesday, kept the streak alive by stroking a double on a 3-0 pitch from Colorado's Ryan Speier.
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CF Jose Cruz Jr. (lower back strain) has missed three consecutive starts and if he can't go Wednesday against Colorado, Luis Terrero is expected to make his first start. Quinton McCracken has been filling in with Cruz out of the lineup.
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SS Royce Clayton, who was batting .174, went 3 for 4 and drove in the winning run Tuesday during a 4-2 victory over the Rockies. Clayton also helped turn three double plays, including one of the rare 5-6-3 variety.
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C/UTY Robby Hammock, who caught Randy Johnson's perfect game last May in Atlanta, signed a minor-league contract. Hammock won't be available until June following February surgery to repair a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder.
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LF Luis Gonzalez has a nice bump on his head courtesy of teammate Brian Bruney, who was experimenting with his curveball while playing catch during batting practice and accidentally clocked Arizona's star slugger. "He got me right above my ear and I did have a headache for a while," Gonzalez said. "It must have knocked some sense into him because he pitched good (Monday night). I did ask him why he didn't throw his curveball during the game. Probably because he didn't have control of it."
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2B Craig Counsell, Arizona's leadoff hitter, on seeing the first pitch at RFK Stadium Thursday during the Nationals' home opener: "I'll probably have to take the first pitch because of all the flash bulbs going off."

NL East

Atlanta
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2B Marcus Giles, who has missed all but two games with injuries to his left knee and ankle, was deemed available for pinch-hitting duty Tuesday by manager Bobby Cox. Cox is debating about whether to let Giles start Wednesday's day game against the Nationals or give him an extra two days of rest; the Braves are off on Thursday.
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LHP Mike Hampton has allowed only one run in each of his two starts, a period comprising 14 innings.
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1B Julio Franco started at first Tuesday night. He generally gets the start against left-handers but when the Braves didn't draw Mets LHP Tom Glavine over the weekend, manager Bobby Cox put Franco in against the Nationals' RHP Estaban Loaiza. "I don't want him sitting on the bench for too long," Cox said.
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RHP John Smoltz's 2,414 strikeouts put him two behind Luis Tiant for 32nd all time. Smoltz is the 34th pitcher with more than 2,400 career strikeouts.

Florida
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SS Alex Gonzalez left Tuesday's game in the fourth inning because of a tight left hamstring but he still managed to help turn three more double plays. Gonzalez, who was replaced by Damion Easley, was listed as day to day. He apparently injured his leg while running out a bunt attempt in the third inning. Gonzalez, who is eligible for free agency after the season, entered the game hitting .333. He and second baseman Luis Castillo turned double plays in the second, third and fourth innings, giving them 10 so far this season. Last year, they turned 63. They have turned 299 over 674 career games together, most among active double-play combinations in baseball.
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RHP A.J. Burnett threw a complete game Tuesday in Florida's 8-2 victory -- the third complete game by a Marlins starter in five games.
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2B Luis Castillo was hitless in his last 17 at-bats before he doubled in the first inning Wednesday. He already had been benched, pinch-hit for and dropped in the order over the first seven games.
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LHP Dontrelle Willis makes his first start Wednesday since his complete-game shutout April 8 over the Nationals. He is 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA in seven career starts against the Phillies.

Philadelphia
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RHP Vicente Padilla made a rehabilitation start for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, allowing two runs in five innings, while striking out four. General manager Ed Wade said that Padilla, who is returning from triceps tendinitis, will rejoin the Phillies in Philadelphia Friday. Although Padilla technically could make one more minor-league rehab start before a decision needs to be made, Wade said that the 79-pitch outing had Padilla sufficiently stretched out and that he was ready to make a return. The exact date won't be decided until this weekend.
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RHP Gavin Floyd will make his second start of the season Friday against the Braves. Floyd was brilliant in his first start of the season (7 IP, 1 ER vs. St. Louis) and could avoid being sent to the minors with another gem against Atlanta. If the Phils decide to keep Floyd on the big-league roster, long reliever Pedro Liriano could be sent to Triple-A and Floyd could take his place.
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OF Marlon Byrd got some interesting news on about the right ring finger he injured diving into first base in a Grapefruit League game March 20. Byrd had an MRI done Tuesday that showed a fracture in the finger. Doctors didn't see a fracture when X-rays were performed the day of the injury, and no one had bothered to perform an MRI at the time. Byrd will wear a splint on the finger for a week, then be reevaluated.
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OF Kenny Lofton was back in the starting lineup Tuesday. He left Sunday's game with a sore right hamstring, but treatment made it possible for him to get back on the field. There's a good chance the left-handed hitting Lofton will get more rest in the upcoming days. The Phils face southpaws in three of their next four games and don't play Thursday.
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LHP Randy Wolf gave up five runs in six innings in the Phillies' 8-2 loss to the Marlins Tuesday night, dropping his career record to 2-11 against them. At least he's consistent both home and away: At home he's 1-6 with a 5.86 ERA; on the road he's 1-5 with a 5.86 ERA, with the same runs allowed and innings pitched at both locations. It is the type of lopsided statistical anomaly that screams of a mental hurdle that isn't being cleared -- not that Wolf was willing or in the mood to admit it. "I don't know what to say," said Wolf. "It just happens to be that way. I hate to lose no matter who it's against. I think it has more to do with me than it has to do with them. "If I make good pitches, I get guys out." "Now and then in baseball some team will have better success against you," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He just made a couple of mistakes out there."
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OF Pat Burrell had his streak of consecutive games with at least one RBI ended at seven. The team record was held by 3B Pinky Whitney, who had RBIs in 10 straight games in 1931.

Mets
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C Mike Piazza is one of the few players who is looking forward to facing Houston RHP Roger Clemens on Wednesday. Piazza is 8 for 16 with four home runs against Clemens in his career. Piazza has started the season 3 for 20 with one RBI.
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OF Cliff Floyd, a left-handed hitter, has hit both of his home runs this season against left-handed pitchers. "That's a sign I'm going pretty good," he said. "When I'm good, the lefty thing doesn't bother me, it's like facing anybody else."
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OF Carlos Beltran has hit safely in six of his seven games with the Mets and has six RBI. "It's nice to get off to a good start but I know I can do better," he said. "I'm getting used to everything."

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