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04/25/08 8:30 PM ET

Nats getting healthy; Kearns rests

Dukes, Lo Duca near Minors rehab assignments

WASHINGTON -- Nationals right fielder Elijah Dukes will start his rehab assignment for Class A Potomac on Saturday afternoon.

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

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Dukes spent last week doing community service in Tampa, Fla. The paper said he was cleaning out cages and mopping at Lowry Park Zoo. On Thurdsay morning, a Tampa judge terminated Dukes' probation.

Dukes and general manager Jim Bowden declined to talk about Dukes' off-field issues.

Once he is activated from the disabled list, Dukes is expected to add power to a team that has struggled at the plate.

Meanwhile, Paul Lo Duca participated in catching drills on Friday and didn't have any problems throwing the baseball. As far as his bat goes, Lo Duca was able to participate in soft-tossing drills and have someone pitch to him in the cage. Lo Duca said there was very little pain when he was swinging the bat.

If things continue to go well, Lo Duca will start his rehab assignment for Potomac on Monday. Lo Duca may play four Minor League games.

"Everything is starting to make progress. I hope to be ready to go and go on my rehab assignment," Lo Duca said.

Closer Chad Cordero played catch on Friday and didn't have problems with his right shoulder. He is expected to be available against the Cubs on Saturday. Manager Manny Acta said he would like Cordero to play one more game before he gets his closer's job back.

Acta gave outfielder Austin Kearns some rest on Friday because he was banged up after colliding into Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado two games in a row. The day off had nothing to do with the fact that Kearns is in a 13-for-77 slump.

"He was kind of on top of the bag. There's not a whole lot of room for both of us," Kearns said.

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