JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals are leaning toward putting reliever Luis
Ayala on the disabled list when the 2007 season starts. The team feels the
right-hander is not 100 percent and doesn't want to rush him on the field.
There is no timetable as to when Ayala will play in a Major League game.
Ayala missed all of 2006 while recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery. The last time
the 29-year-old played in a Major League game was on Sept. 22, 2005, against
the Giants. He pitched only two games that month because of bone spurs in
his right elbow. The spurs were removed after that season.
However, Ayala needed to undergo surgery again last March, after he hurt
the same elbow pitching in the World Baseball Classic.
"Unless something changes dramatically, then Luis Ayala [will join] Nick
Johnson and Mike O'Connor on the disabled list," general manager Jim Bowden
said. "We are going to take the conservative approach with Luis. We are not
going to rush him while he's coming back from Tommy John surgery.
"I can't put a timetable on it, but, look, I could be surprised. But we
can't put him on the roster and not have him available to pitch back-to-back
days. It's not fair for the team to do that. Although we have not made that
final decision, as of now, that's where we are leaning toward."
Earlier in the week, Ayala had a bullpen session and threw breaking balls
for the first time, and Bowden felt that Ayala looked to be about 75 percent of where he
needs to be.
"We are pleased with the progress," Bowden said. "I just don't think it is Opening Day
Ayala's absence was a huge blow to the Nationals in 2006. Outside of Chad
Cordero and Jon Rauch, the team couldn't find a reliever who could work regularly. From 2003-05, the organization was used to Ayala appearing
in at least 60 games and holding teams in check in the seventh and eighth
If Ayala is placed on the disabled list, it would mean two things: Ryan
Wagner and Rauch will be the setup men, and the Nationals will carry 12
pitchers on the 25-man roster.
"We are going to carry (12) because of our rotation," manager Manny Acta said. "We are probably going
to need guys [who can start and relieve]."
Bill Ladson is a reporter
for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.