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03/30/06 7:00 PM ET

Notes: Armas remains upbeat

Right-hander feels he is coming along at solid pace

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. struggled in his third game of the spring on Thursday afternoon, allowing five runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Braves.

While he wished for better results, Armas is happy that his throwing shoulder, which has given him problems the last three seasons, is healthy. He also doesn't feel that he is behind the rest of the pitching staff after representing Venezuela for two weeks in the World Baseball Classic.

"I'm going into the season healthy, and I'm looking forward to it," Armas said. "I'm throwing the pitches where I want them."

Manager Frank Robinson, however, saw a different performance from Armas.

"I would have liked for him to be a little better out there, a little sharper, and gotten the hitters out a little easier, but things weren't there," Robinson said.

Armas is not expected to pitch in his first game of the regular season until April 9 against Astros, so he will stay in Viera, Fla., and pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday.

Injury report: Right-hander Luis Ayala had successful reconstructive surgery on his right elbow on Thursday. The procedure was performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum and Nationals orthopedist Dr. Ben Shaffer. Ayala, who will start rehabbing the shoulder in Arizona next week, is expected to be on the mound sometime next year.

Shortstop Cristian Guzman had a throwing session with head athletic trainer Tim Abraham on Thursday morning, and Guzman said his right shoulder is getting stronger, but it feels a little tight. He is currently on the 15-day disabled list, but will travel with the team to start the season.

Around the horn: The Nationals are 9-20-1 this spring. ... Washington is 4-5 since Alfonso Soriano played his first game on March 22. ... Robinson said that he will treat the two exhibition games against the Orioles like it was the regular season. Players like Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, Brandon Watson and Ryan Zimmerman are expected to play nine innings. ... Infielder Brendan Harris, outfielders George Lombard and Kenny Kelly, and pitchers Jason Bergmann, Steve Watkins and Bill Bray will travel north with the team to play against the Orioles. All six players will start the season in the Minor Leagues. ... A total of 72 players have appeared in a game for the Nationals this spring. ... Robert Fick, who is on the disabled list because of elbow surgery, went to California to be with his ailing mother. He is expected to travel with the team to start the season. ... Ryan Drese, also on the DL, will rehab in Viera.

Coming up: On Thursday evening, the Nationals travel to Washington D.C. to play a home and home exhibition series against the Orioles starting Friday night at 7:05 ET at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. John Patterson will get the start for Washington, while Kris Benson gets the nod for Baltimore.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.