Washington Nationals vs Cleveland Indians Spring Training Game Report and ?'s for Nationals' fans.

Washington starter Matt Chico lasted 5.0 IP and left the game with a 6-1 lead this afternoon in the day half of the day/night doubleheader of the Nationals' split-squad affair with the Cleveland Indians. Chico's line...5.0 IP, 3 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K's, 1 HR allowed to end the day with a 4.61 ERA.

Chico, entering the day, was (0-1) with a 6.23 ERA in 3 starts and 8.2 IP, over which he given up 11 hits, 6 ER, 3 HR's and 6 walks, while striking out 4 so far this Spring. Chico's in no way guaranteed a spot in the Nationals' starting rotation this season, though Manny Acta was quoted and his thought process interpreted by Washington Post baseball writer Barry Svrluga in an article entitled, "Nationals to Start the Season With a Better Feel for Pitching", back on February 10, 2008, before pitchers and catchers had even reported, with Svrluga writing:

"Though Acta is not giving away spots in the rotation, he says of Chico, "How can you tell guys that led our team in innings pitched and strikeouts he's coming to spring training to compete for a spot?"

Chico, for his part, is quoted in the same Barry Svrluga article displaying the sort of attitude you'd expect from a young starter heading into his second Spring with the Nationals, telling the Washington Post writer, in a phone interview:

"'I'm fighting for a spot.'"

(ed. note- "The Nationals Farm Authority (farmauthority.dcsportsnet.com) predicted the other day, in a post entitled, 'Projecting the Rosters - Columbus', that Chico will start the season at Triple-AAA Columbus...")

DC reliever Steve Shell replaced Chico on the hill in the in the sixth, with the Nationals ahead 6-1 and Shell got shel...(aah too easy)...Shell gave up three straight home runs to Jason Michaels, Ben Francisco and Kelly Shoppach before retiring the Indians. 6-4 Nationals after six.

Jesus "Everyday" Colome made his first appearance of the Spring after the start of his season was delayed by visa issues. Colome starts off '08 with a scoreless frame, retiring the Indians in order in just 8 pitches.

More bad news for the Nationals' outfield, Elijah Dukes came up lame after sliding into second on a DY single. Dukes was said to be holding his hamstring by the radio announcers, and Dukes exited the game, which is no surprise in the Spring, but with MLB.com's Bill Ladson's report this morning, in an article entitled, "Pena to start season on DL", that:

"Nationals left fielder Wily Mo Pena will likely start the 2008 season on the disabled list due to a Grade 2 strain of his left oblique. It's a significant tear in the muscle, and could take four weeks or more to heal."

...and now with Dukes possibly injured, one has to wonder who will be starting in left on Opening Day, which is now just two weeks and two days away? (Justin Maxwell? Kory Casto? Ryan LANGERHANS????)

Now for some live action...

...The Flat-Brimmed Closer Chad Cordero enters the game with the Nationals ahead 8-4 in the top of the ninth. Cordero gets the first out with one pitch, 1. Fly ball to Willie Harris in center...2. Cordero gets a K on a curve...and 1,2,3 Nationals win. Cordero puts the Indians down in order. Nationals win 8-4.

Game Notes and ?'s

Cristian Guzman was 2 for 4 with a double raising his Spring AVG to .405...Can Guzman finally put together a full season in DC in '08, and earn his contract in the last year of his deal?

Is a slimmer Chad Cordero, who has now gone 5.0 innings this Spring without allowing a run, and allowed only 1 hit while striking out 5, going to start the season as the lights out Nationals' closer, or will he struggle early like he did last year(admittedly, amidst well-documented personal issues) before coming on strong after the All-Star break?

DY was 1 for 3 with 2 RBI's today, but is there anything he can do in the next two weeks to catch up to or pass Nick Johnson for the starting spot at first?

Is Aaron Boone, who went 2 for 3 with a HR and 3 RBI's today, going to ready by Opening Night and will he be able to provide the clutch bat off the bench that the Nationals are expecting?

Dukes, according to the post game report, is now listed as Day-to-Day? Start that LF list? Who will it be if Dukes can't go?

(ed.note- "You have to love the digital age...an hour or less after it happens...) Dukes is quoted by Washington Post writer Barry Svrluga in a post entitled, "Dukes: I'll be ready in a day or two", on Mr. Svrluga's, "Nationals Journal", where he writes, "Elijah Dukes said he doesn't think his strained hamstring is that bad," and quotes Dukes himself who says:

"'It was almost like a little strain, cramp almost feeling. Maybe it came from just sweating a lot. I don't know what it actually came from. I know that I'll be ready within a day or two. It's just a little soreness right now.'"

That's good news...let's hope Dukes is right.

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