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04/11/09 8:07 PM ET

Hernandez ready for rehab assignment

Second baseman pain-free after extended spring game

ATLANTA -- The Nationals received good news regarding second baseman Anderson Hernandez on Saturday. He played seven innings in an extended spring training game in Viera, Fla., without any problems with his left hamstring.

Hernandez will now go on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday, playing against Rochester.

Hernandez started the season on the disabled list because of a strained left hamstring. Acting general manager Mike Rizzo did not give a timetable as to when Hernandez will be activated.

"We have to see how he performs when the game speeds up," Rizzo said "The instincts are a full go. We have to see how his body holds up."

Rizzo acknowledged that Hernandez is already missed from a defensive standpoint. The seventh inning of Friday's game against the Braves was an example how things might have gone better if Hernandez were healthy.

With runners on first and second and two outs, Jeff Francoeur hit a slow roller up the middle that went past second baseman Willie Harris for a base hit, allowing Brian McCann to score. Some people in the organization thought that Harris should have stopped the ball from going into the outfield and believed Hernandez would have made that play.

"Hernandez is a terrific second baseman. You miss his range and sure hands. He is a fine defensive second baseman and was swinging the bat well in Spring Training," Rizzo said. "He was one of our eight starters. When one of your starters comes out of the lineup, you miss him."

Meanwhile, right fielder Elijah Dukes' right groin injury wasn't as serious as the team first thought. He is listed as day-to-day. Manager Manny Acta declined to give a timetable on when Dukes will be back on the field.

With one out and left-hander Joe Beimel on the mound on Friday, Braves second baseman Kelly Johnson singled to right field on a 1-2 pitch. Dukes tried unsuccessfully to gun down Jordan Schafer, who was safe at the plate. After making the throw, Dukes was in pain. Center fielder Lastings Milledge came to his aid, but Dukes managed to walk off the field on his own power.

Right-hander Terrell Young, the team's Rule 5 Draft pick, is currently rehabbing his right shoulder. Once he is healthy, the Nationals have to decide whether to keep him or send him back to the Reds. Washington also could make a trade for his services.

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