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Notes: Castilla returns early07/24/2005 8:45 PM ET
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Third baseman Vinny Castilla, who hasn't started a game since July 18 because of a sore left knee, said the knee feels much better, and that he expects to start against the Braves starting Tuesday night at Turner Field.
All Castilla had done prior to Sunday was hit in the cage, throw the baseball, get treatment on the knee and make a pinch-hitting appearance.
Castilla was supposed to rest the knee on Sunday, but he was forced into the game against the Astros once Jose Guillen left the contest after getting hit by a pitch on the right wrist. The Nationals ran out of position players after Castilla entered the game.
Castilla was tested -- big time. In the 13th inning, he ran and fielded a slow a ground ball down the third-base line and threw out Lance Berkman.
Castilla admitted that he felt some pain during the play.
He also was running out balls that were going into the stands in foul territory. Castilla was noticeably limping as the balls were going out of play.
After the game, Castilla said he was ready to start against the Braves on Tuesday.
Manager Frank Robinson said Castilla has to be monitored for the rest of the season. But the skipper also feels that an occasional day off will prevent further damage to the knee.
"He's not coming back 100 percent. The knee will bother him the rest of the year, but he will at least be better than he was a few days ago," Robinson said. "He will get rest [once in a while]. Hopefully, it will not get to the point where we will not have to sit him down for an extended period of time."
Castilla said that surgery on his left knee is not an option. He feels that rest, treatment and therapy will get rid of the pain this offseason.
Put this on file: If Castilla continues to have problems with his knee and has to go on the disabled list, don't be surprised if third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is promoted to the big leagues.
A baseball source said the Nationals were close to promoting Zimmerman last week.
Zimmerman, the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, is already Gold Glove material and is not too bad with the bat. Entering Sunday's action, Zimmerman was hitting .267 with three home runs and 12 RBIs for Double-A Harrisburg.
The Nationals have already announced that Zimmerman is on the fast track to the big leagues.
Injury report: First baseman Nick Johnson is expected to be activated from the disabled list and play against the Braves on Tuesday. Robinson said that Johnson most likely will bat cleanup.
Mr. Skates: During Robinson's morning briefing, a reporter told Robinson that he thought Preston Wilson looked shaky in center field.
For example, in the third inning on Sunday, Orlando Palmeiro hit a routine fly ball to center. Wilson misjudged the ball and it dropped in for a base hit.
But Robinson said that Wilson is trying to get familiar with spacious Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.
"I think he's fine. I think he's going to be OK," Robinson said. "Preston is not a smooth-type guy. All his moves are kind of a little jerky and, sometimes, he is going to look like he's a little shaky out there. Nothing is really smooth about him unless he is standing still talking to you."
When Johnson returns to first base, some in the organization would like to see Brad Wilkerson return to center field and Wilson switched to left. It's clear to most observers that Wilkerson is the better center fielder, as he gets to the balls much better than Wilson.
Trade deadline chatter: According to a baseball source, the Nationals still would like to acquire Mariners left-hander Eddie Guardado. The Mariners asked for right-hander John Patterson in return, but the Nationals said "no thanks." Patterson is considered one of the best starters on the Nationals' roster.
Did you know? Sunny Kim has a 2.79 ERA in two starts and an 8.15 ERA as a reliever in nine games. Overall, he is 1-2 with a 6.26 ERA.
Stat of the day: Entering Sunday's action, the Nationals are 34-for-161 (.211) with runners in scoring position during the month of July.
On deck: The Nationals have the day off on Monday, but they fly to Atlanta to play an important three-game series against the Braves at Turner Field starting Tuesday night.
Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez will get the start the Braves in Game 1, facing the Braves for the first time this season. Hernandez hopes to have better luck against the Braves than he has the in the past. He is 2-12 with a 5.45 ERA against them all-time, and 0-7 with a 6.52 ERA at the Ted.
In his last start, Hernandez gave up three runs in seven innings against the Rockies en route to losing his fourth game of the season. He also set a franchise record by hitting four batters in a game, which Hernandez said was due to losing control of his slider.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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