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05/08/10 1:24 PM ET

Morgan gets break; Bernadina starts in center

WASHINGTON -- With a right-hander on the mound in Florida's Josh Johnson, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman juggled his lineup for Saturday's game, giving center fielder Nyjer Morgan a rest.

With a stretch of 20 games in 20 days beginning Tuesday, Riggleman is wary of tiring out any of his players, even top-of-the-lineup catalyst Morgan, who is hitting .316 in his past 13 games.

"We have 20 in a row here, and everybody's going to get one, if not two [days] off. [It's] an opportunity to try to keep some other guys sharp," Riggleman said.

Shortstop Cristian Guzman replaced Morgan as the leadoff hitter and Roger Bernadina made his first start of the season in center, hitting seventh.

Bernadina may be getting more playing time, as the Nats optioned outfielder Justin Maxwell to Triple-A Syracuse after Friday's game to open a roster spot for Saturday's starting pitcher, Matt Chico.

Bernadina is hitting .227 (5-for-22) with one RBI in eight games.

Lannan throws, aims to start Thursday

WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander John Lannan, who skipped Saturday's scheduled start in hopes that the soreness in his pitching elbow would dissipate, threw long toss before the game, a positive first step toward making his next outing Thursday at Colorado.

It was the first time Lannan had thrown since alerting the Nats about his injury.

"I just played catch," Lannan said after throwing from 100 feet for about 10 minutes in right field. "You can't hop right out there after not throwing, so today was just a day to go out and toss."

Not experiencing any lingering soreness probably means Lannan will avoid the disabled list and stay on target to open the four-game series against the Rockies. Lannan has been concentrating on long-distance running and tried to make Saturday's activities feel like what he'd do on a normal day when he was starting.

Well, everything except actually pitching.

"Today in the game might feel a little bit weird, but I know my arm needed this rest," said Lannan, who is 1-2 with a 6.34 ERA in six starts. "They gave it to me. I'm glad I said something, because I could have kept on pitching and it could have gotten worse. This rest was needed."

Lannan, who last pitched May 2 at Florida, received a cortisone shot in his elbow to relieve tenderness in his left flexor tendon and performed exercises to keep his rotator cuff flexible. He didn't hesitate to alert the club about the elbow problem, though his honesty caused him to miss a turn in the rotation for the first time.

"I've seen guys with injuries, guys holding back and not saying anything," he said. "I don't lie. I'm a horrible, horrible liar. As soon as I felt something, I told them. ... It just didn't feel right. I'm glad I told them."

Marquis ready for rehab assignment

WASHINGTON -- Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis was happy with his bullpen session before Saturday's game. The next step is a rehabilitation assignment at a location yet to be determined.

"He's had a couple bullpen sessions. I'm not sure when, but the likelihood is he'll go out on a rehab here in the next four or five days," Washington manager Jim Riggleman said. "He'll go pitch somewhere and get on a schedule to get back here and join us."

Marquis followed about 10 minutes of long toss in right field with an air-it-out bullpen session under the watchful eyes of pitching coach Steve McCatty, with outfielder Willy Taveras standing in as a batter who didn't swing. Riggleman caught the tail end of the morning workout.

"It went well, so hopefully we can get in a game situation soon and test it out, make sure all my stuff in right," Marquis said. "I'm ready to go. It's been a little slower than I'd like, but maybe it'll be better in the long run."

Marquis was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 21, retroactive to April 19, after loose bodies were discovered in his pitching elbow. In his last start, on April 18 against Milwaukee, Marquis didn't retire a hitter, yielding four hits, walking a batter and hitting two in a forgettable outing in which he was charged with seven runs.

Marquis got a cortisone injection and was told not to throw for seven to 10 days, part of a conservative approach the Nationals took in hopes of avoiding surgery. Marquis, who signed a two-year, $15 million deal to anchor the rotation, thinks he's delivered on his promise that he's a quick healer.

"I'm ready to go," he said.

Marquis said his destination really isn't as important as the opportunity to face live hitters.

"As long as it's a game-type situation where I have to work hitters, throw all my pitches and make sure they're fine tuned so I'll be ready when I get back here," said Marquis, who is 0-3 with a 20.52 ERA in three starts.

Chico recalled to make spot start

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals made the recall of left-hander Matt Chico from Double-A Harrisburg official on Saturday morning. Chico's start against the Marlins was his first in the Major Leagues since May 22, 2008.

Manager Jim Riggleman hopes the 26-year-old Chico can call on his familiarity in facing Major League hitters -- the southpaw made 42 starts between 2007 and '08 before Tommy John surgery -- while taking the place of lefty John Lannan, who was skipped in the rotation because of a sore left elbow.

"Really, we just want [Chico] to draw on that experience he has here in the big leagues," Riggleman said. "A very good right-handed-hitting ballclub he's going to face here, so it's going to be a challenge, but we felt like he was the guy who was most ready to do it. I'd just like to see him go out there and keep us in the ballgame."

For now, Chico's appearance is nothing more than a spot start. The Nats expect Lannan to take his next scheduled turn Thursday in the opener of a four-game series in Colorado against the Rockies.

"If John's OK for Thursday, there wouldn't be a spot there as a starter for Matt," Riggleman said. "That doesn't mean we couldn't do some other things, but we'll really just see where this takes us today and see afterwards."

Outfielder Justin Maxwell was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse after Friday's game to clear a roster spot for Chico, who was 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA in five starts for the Senators.

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.