Notes: Patterson, Ayala making strides

Notes: Patterson, Ayala make strides at camp

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-handers John Patterson and Luis Ayala continue to throw the ball very well at Nationals spring camp.

Patterson threw his first batting practice session on Thursday and didn't feel any pain in his right forearm, which forced him to miss most of the 2006 season.

Patterson threw 35 pitches and didn't have problems throwing his breaking balls, except for the slider.

"The session went well and it was good to see a hitter again," Patterson said.

Catcher Danny Ardoin felt Patterson was in top form on the mound.

"He was really solid," Ardoin said. "He was on. His curveball was sharp and his fastball location was pretty on."

Ayala is able to throw his fastball and changeup, but has yet to throw the slider. The Nationals plan to start Ayala off slowly during the exhibition season after he missed all of 2006 because of elbow reconstruction surgery.

"Louie has looked outstanding," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "He looks free and easy. He's letting the ball go. He has great action to the ball."

Listen what the man says: Closer Chad Cordero acknowledged that it was hard to turn down a two-year guaranteed deal from the Nationals. But his agent, Larry Reynolds, and the Major League Baseball Players Association convinced Cordero that he could win his arbitration case. The arbiters ruled in Cordero's favor, and he will make $4.15 million in 2007. Washington offered $3.65 million.

"I don't know why I didn't sign [the two-year deal]," Cordero said. "I wanted to. The Players Association thought I had a good case and they wanted see how it turned out. Even if I lost my arbitration case, I wasn't going to lose. It's still a lot of money. It's still more money than I ever would have thought [I'd make]."

Kasten sighting: Team president Stan Kasten arrived in Viera on Wednesday night and addressed the team on Thursday morning.

Kasten gave the players an update on the new stadium, told them of the organization's plans of building a championship team and urged them to work with the media.

"Every year since I've been here, there has been something negative," Patterson said. "It has been one thing after another. This year we have something positive to look at and [we] know that this organization is headed in the right direction. It's a really good time to be in this organization."

More from the president: Kasten acknowledged that he was trying to move a game between USA Baseball and the Chinese national team to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, but it was nixed because Major League Soccer's D.C. United had a game that same day.

"We are starting to forge relationships with USA Baseball, because we are interested in that kind of thing," Kasten said. "It's something we would get the embassies involved with. We are putting our stamp out there."

Kasten hasn't ruled out the Nationals playing games outside the United States.

Different scenario: Nationals manager Manny Acta said recently that he would not ask his players to sacrifice with a runner on first and no outs. He believes the runner ha a better chance of scoring from first with no outs than one from second with one out. But, on Tuesday, Acta said he would sacrifice with runners on first and second and no outs.

"I do believe in having runners on second and third and one out," he said. "I'm going to make your jobs easy throughout the season. You see anybody that is hitting third, fourth, fifth or sixth bunting in that situation, I'm going to save you some time. Don't come to me and ask me if he bunted on his own."

Avoiding errors: Acta has a solution to help catcher Brian Schneider avoid making throwing errors this season. If a runner tries to steal second base and Schneider's throw is high, Acta wants to see center fielder Nook Logan, for example, run toward the second-base bag to prevent the runner from advancing to third.

"When the catcher throws the ball away, we see the runner get up and go to third base," Acta said. "Those are things we are going to try to eliminate. The center fielder should not stand there and expect the throw to be right on the money or the middle infielder to block the ball. He should be able to able to creep in to prevent that guy from going to third base and Schneider from having a throwing error."

Let the games begin: The Nationals will have two intrasquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday. They have not announced the four pitchers who will start in those games. The team wants to make sure that the pitchers are healthy before making the announcement.

"I have to find some innings for those [38] guys," Acta said.

The Nationals begin their exhibition season against the Dodgers on March 2 in Vero Beach.

With 72 players in camp, Acta didn't rule out some of them participating in the Minor League accelerated camp.

Injury report: Batting practice pitcher Pablo Reyes was hit on the left side of chin by a line drive off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. Reyes said he was OK and was seen eating lunch soon thereafter. As a precaution, he intended to go to the hospital to see if he needed stitches.

Right-hander Jesus Coleme missed Thursday's workout because of an abscess on his right buttocks. He will participate in light workouts on Friday and should be at full strength on Saturday.

Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag runs every Monday. Send in your questions now.

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