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05/11/11 6:30 PM ET

Gaudin's return to bullpen uncertain

ATLANTA -- Chad Gaudin was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, but the right-hander's status hasn't changed and his place in the bullpen appears in doubt when his shoulder does feel well enough to pitch.

Gaudin went on the DL on April 27 because of inflammation in the shoulder, and he isn't traveling with the team on its road trip, which ends Thursday in Atlanta.

Manager Jim Riggleman said the reliever will need a Minor League rehab stint, which has not been scheduled.

Gaudin, 28, was signed as a Minor League free agent over the winter and made the team in Spring Training. But he had a 6.48 ERA in 10 appearances during April and had eight walks in 8 1/3 innings.

Right-hander Henry Rodriguez came off the DL when Gaudin went on, and Rodriguez will keep a spot. The Nationals must also continue to carry right-hander Brian Broderick or offer the Rule 5 selection back to the Cardinals.

"He's just got that general wear-and-tear soreness that doesn't appear it's going to be anything extremely significant," Riggleman said of Gaudin. "But he needs to go pitch some rehab assignments before we see him."

Werth's big homer a sign of progress

ATLANTA -- Jayson Werth's three-run homer on Tuesday night off the Braves' Tim Hudson was more than just a big hit in a significant Nationals victory. It was a sign that the Nationals' prized offseason acquisition may be ready to come out of his early-season funk.

"A month ago, I would have swung and missed," Werth said after staying back on Hudson's fifth-inning changeup. "Three weeks ago, I probably would have hooked it foul. A week ago, I would have hit it to the third baseman."

Instead, Werth hit his first homer since April 27 and gave the Nationals a needed cushion in their 7-6 victory at Turner Field.

Werth signed a seven-year deal for $126 million as a free agent over the winter and has struggled so far this season. The homer was his fifth of the season -- and the first with men on base -- but gave him just 12 RBIs in 33 games, while his average entering Wednesday's game was .228.

It's been a frustrating six weeks for Werth. In the first inning he vented after rapping into a double play, tearing off his helmet after returning to the dugout and spiking it with two hands.

"I chuck my helmet all the time," he said. "I just don't like hitting balls at the shortstop. It wasn't a matter of anything else other than that."

Werth hit the ball hard his next time up in the fourth, but second baseman Dan Uggla made the catch. Then came the homer in the fifth, with the right-handed hitter waiting perfectly on the 2-and-1 pitch.

Werth was given the day off in Florida on Sunday after going 3-for-16 in the first five games of the road trip. With the Nationals not playing on Monday, it meant a two-day break to clear his head.

"You never know what gets a guy going. Sometimes it's a broken-bat hit," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "But that was a big hit off a quality pitcher, and very timely."

Nix showing value with increased playing time

ATLANTA -- When Braves pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad flirted with a ninth-inning homer Tuesday night, it was a potential painful flashback for Laynce Nix.

The last time that Nix had played at Turner Field, Conrad hit a pinch-hit grand slam to complete a six-run, ninth-inning comeback and pin the Reds with an 8-7 defeat. Worse yet, the ball bounced off Nix's glove in left field and popped over the fence.

Nationals center fielder Roger Bernadina ran down this drive in center field, however, and the Nationals, up 7-1 before a five-run eighth by the Braves, held on for a 7-6 victory.

Asked if he thought back to last May, Nix said, "No, sure didn't." Obviously, he didn't want to bring back bad memories.

More than just ninth-inning luck has changed for Nix this season. He's been getting more of a chance to play with the Nationals than he did with the Reds, and he's taking advantage of it.

The three-run shot that Nix hit off Tim Hudson in the fourth inning to put the Nationals up 4-0 was his fourth homer of the season, and he had 12 RBIs in 62 at-bats going into the middle game of the three-game set with the Braves on Wednesday, when he made his seventh straight start.

"He's a pretty strong individual," said teammate Jayson Werth of the left-handed blast, which traveled more than 400 feet into the right-field seats.

Nix, 30, had just 165 at-bats with the Reds last season, when he finished with four homers. He hit 15 for the Reds the year before in 309 at-bats.

"His hits have been timely," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "It's not just that you hit homers. His have been very timely."

Riggleman sees more playing time for Ramos

ATLANTA -- Wilson Ramos and Pudge Rodriguez will continue splitting time behind the plate, but Nationals manager Jim Riggleman plans to give the rookie more and more playing time.

"Even though Pudge is playing very well, I feel like to develop Ramos along I have to play him more than every other day," Riggleman said.

Ramos, acquired in a trade with the Twins last season as Rodriguez's heir apparent, started his second straight game Wednesday night against the Braves and hit fifth in the lineup. He was batting .301 with two homers and seven RBIs in 23 games through Tuesday.

"We're trying to get Ramos into more two and three day in a row stuff," Riggleman said. "Wilson just plays better when he plays more."

The veteran Rodriguez has hit .214 in 16 games, with a homer and 10 RBIs. Both catchers had excelled behind the plate, throwing out 4 of 11 would-be basestealers.

When Rodriguez's Hall of Fame career comes to an end, Ramos will take over the Nationals' catching duties full time.

"As he becomes the No. 1 catcher, he's going to be like like [Brian] McCann over there [with the Braves] and play five or six games [in a row]," Riggleman said.

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