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04/24/08 8:14 PM ET

Dukes close to return, Cordero to pitch

Outfielder's right hamstring, closer's shoulder both improved

WASHINGTON -- Right fielder Elijah Dukes was back at Nationals Park on Thursday, and he feels he is close to being ready to play baseball again. Dukes hasn't played a game since Opening Day because of a right hamstring strain.

Dukes spent the last week in Florida in order to recover in warmer weather and do community service, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

"My hamstring is about right," Dukes said. "I figure I should be out there as soon as I get some running in and show them that I'm OK."

Dukes indicated he most likely will have a rehab assignment at Class A Potomac once he is ready to play. General manager Jim Bowden declined to give a timetable on the outfielder's return. All Bowden would say is that Dukes must be 100 percent before he plays in any games.

Meanwhile, closer Chad Cordero is back with the Nationals and said he is relieved that there is nothing structurally wrong with his right shoulder. The plan is for Cordero to play catch on Friday and to appear in a game the next day. He expects to play in a meaningful game by next week.

On Wednesday, a thorough examination by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., revealed rotator cuff tendinitis and weakness in Cordero's shoulder. Cordero will pitch and continue to strengthen his shoulder through various exercises designed in conjunction with the Nationals' athletic training staff.

"I'm really happy right now," Cordero said. "There is nothing torn in there. There is nothing but tendinitis. I figured there was nothing wrong because I wasn't in any pain."

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