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Notes: Day nails down No. 5 spot03/21/2005 8:06 PM ET
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Frank Robinson said that barring any setbacks, right-hander Zach Day will be the fifth starter in the rotation. The news comes a couple hours after Day pitched five shutout innings against the Marlins on Monday afternoon.
"He is not doing anything to take him out of that spot," Robinson said. "That's the way I look at it."
Day got off to a slow start, but has pitched well in his last two outings, yielding one run in his last 10 innings to lower his ERA to 3.60. Day said he is excited that all of his pitches have been working.
"I'm not only exited about my sinker, but I'm excited about my changeup and curveball," he said. "I'm excited about how far those pitches have come. Even in the bullpen sessions, I'm glad about how it's going."
On Monday against the Marlins, Day allowed two hits and one walk. He struck out three and walked one. Day threw 86 pitches, 52 of them for strikes. He threw a lot of pitches in the first two innings, but he made adjustments to his mechanics as the game went on.
"I still felt myself overstriding a couple of times during the game, but I knew going in that I couldn't think about it," Day said. "It was just something that I needed to correct. I was just overstriding, so I couldn't finish my changeup, my curveball and even my sinker."
With Day in the rotation, John Patterson and Jon Rauch, candidates for the fifth spot, most likely will be in the bullpen.
Looking good: Reliever Joey Eischen had his best outing of the spring on Monday, pitching one shutout inning and striking out two. Before Monday's game, Eischen had a tough time on the mound because he was slow to recover from the flu.
"I felt good," Eischen said. "The mechanics are starting to feel very comfortable to where I don't have to think about things out on the mound."
Robinson said that Eischen's fastball was much better than it was in the past.
"He's getting a little stronger every time out. It took him a long time to shake off [the flu]," Robinson said. "The first pitch he threw today was a very good fastball, which I haven't seen much of this spring. It looks like he's getting stronger each time out."
Calling it home: Jose Guillen is in the final year of his two-year contract, but he has made it known to interim general manager Jim Bowden that he wants to stay with the Nationals past this season. The team does have an option on Guillen for next year.
"Jim knows I don't want to stay for one year," Guillen said. "I'm going to play here for many years to come."
Special assignments: Bob Boone, the special assistant to the general manager, and Jose Cardenal, the special advisor to the GM, are going to scout Braves backup shortstop Wilson Betemit for a couple of days, according to a source. There are some in the Nationals organization, who believe that Betemit has problems hitting breaking balls.
The Nationals also are still scouting Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena, who is having a subpar spring.
Meanwhile, scouts from the Reds organization have been checking out Nationals players at the minor league camp.
Infield help? The Nationals called shortstop Rey Ordonez, 33, recently to check on his status, according to a source. Ordonez, who is currently a free agent, is not willing to play in the minor leagues, but is willing to play in the big leagues "at any price."
Ordonez, who was once considered one of the game's best defensive players, played 23 games for the Cubs last season and hit .164 with a home run and 10 RBIs.
Injury report: Center fielder Endy Chavez was supposed to play in Monday's game against the Marlins, but he was a late scratch because of elbow tendinitis. Chavez said he hurt the elbow while working in the weight room on Sunday.
Robinson said that he doesn't expect Chavez to play until Thursday against the Cardinals.
Left-hander Michael Hinckley, who was sent down to Double-A Harrisburg last week, has a left shoulder strain. He will begin an exercise program and resume throwing in two weeks.
Hinckley, who is considered by many to be the Nationals' top prospect, missed time last year with a tired arm.
Hinckley came into camp as a candidate for the fifth spot on the rotation. But he gave up eight earned runs in six innings.
Third baseman Vinny Castilla, who has missed the last three games because of a sore left knee, is expected to play on Friday against the Orioles. Castilla has played in eight games and is 2-for-20 (.100) with an RBI.
Patterson, who missed a minor league start on Sunday because of tightness in his right hip flexor, will have a bullpen session on Tuesday.
Roster cuts: The Nationals optioned infielder Brendan Harris to Triple-A New Orleans and reassigned right-hander Hector Carrasco and infielder George Arias to minor league camp. Both Carrasco and Arias are expected to report to New Orleans.
Harris performed well with the bat this spring, hitting .345 (10-for-29) with five RBIs, but had problems with the glove, committing three errors.
Carrasco didn't get much of a chance to pitch after being in a car accident on March 9. He appeared in one game after the crash and didn't give up a run. Overall, Carrasco appeared in three games and didn't give up a run in 3 1/3 innings.
Arias, who was 5-for-19 with an RBI, believes that he didn't make the team because he didn't display the power that he showed in Japan. He hit 159 home runs with 431 RBIs in the last five seasons.
"I was excited to have the opportunity to come back here to try out," Arias said. "I didn't perform at the level that I could. Obviously, I wasn't what they were looking for. They wanted to see some power. That's what they were probably looking for."
Still working: The Nationals will have the day off on Wednesday, but right-hander Esteban Loaiza will pitch in a minor league game that day. He will throw 85 pitches, or throw six to seven innings. The Nationals don't want Loaiza to miss his turn in the rotation.
Did you know? Six of the Nationals' nine home runs this spring have been hit by players acquired in the offseason. Guillen, Cristian Guzman, Jeffrey Hammonds, J.J. Davis, Gary Bennett and Keith Osik have one home run apiece.
Coming up: The Nationals travel to Kissimmee, Fla., to play the Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Tuesday. Nationals right-hander Tony Armas Jr. will make his fourth start of the spring, while Andy Pettitte will be on the mound for the Astros.
The last time Armas pitched was in a minor league game against the Braves last Friday. He threw 28 pitches in three shutout innings and struck out two.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.