Notes: Armas ready to return

Notes: Armas ready to return

ATLANTA -- Nationals right-hander Tony Armas Jr. threw in the bullpen on Monday afternoon and didn't feel any pain in his shoulder.

According to pitching coach Randy St. Claire, Armas had two sessions: In the first one, Armas threw 26 pitches. In the second session, Armas threw 24 pitches. That's not including the eight warmup tosses he threw before each session.

In between the sessions, Armas took a 10-minute break.

"In the past, Armas had problems when he sat down in between innings and his shoulder would get tight," St. Claire said. "So we sat him for 10 minutes on Monday to see if he had tightness and he said he didn't have any."

Armas hasn't pitched in a game since Aug. 23, when he left against the Reds after three innings because of a sore right shoulder.

Armas is scheduled to pitch against the Braves on Thursday night at Turner Field

Back in action: Triple-A New Orleans returned to action against Oklahoma City on Monday. The Zephyrs cancelled their final three home games because of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans has eight games remaining.

Which is worse? Like the 2005 Nationals, the 2004 Expos were one of the worst hitting teams in the Major Leagues, but manager Frank Robinson said this year's team was worse "because of what's at stake."

The Nationals are still in the playoff race despite a slump throughout the second half. It's the primary reason the team is 14-27 during the second half.

Injury report: Right-hander Ryan Drese went to see Dr. Lewis Yocum in Southern California for a second opinion on his right shoulder on Monday, and Dr. Yocum confirmed that Drese has a torn labrum and needs surgery. Drese is likely out for the season.

Drese hasn't decided if he will have the surgery in California or Washington, D.C. He will talk to the Nationals brass about his plans when the team returns to Washington on Friday.

Drese is a combined 7-12 with a 5.78 ERA for the Rangers and Nationals.

Drese's absence means that left-hander John Halama most likely will remain in the rotation. Halama has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals. He is 0-1 with a 1.46 ERA in four games.

Reliever Luis Ayala, who hasn't played in over a week because of tendinitis in his right elbow flexor, played catch for seven minutes on Monday and didn't feel any pain. Ayala hopes to have a bullpen session on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Outfielder Alex Escobar is going to Baltimore to see Dr. Lewis Schon about his right foot, which has given him problems all season. Escobar, who was acquired from the White Sox for outfielder Jerry Owens before Spring Training, has yet to play a game this season.

Did you know? Three of Jose Vidro's seven home runs have come against the Braves this season. Vidro is a .304 hitter (110-for-354) with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs against Atlanta in his career.

Stat of the day: Entering Tuesday's action, the Nationals are hitting .234 with 32 home runs and 145 RBIs during the second half of the season.

On deck: After Monday's postponement, the Nationals hope to start a four-game series against the Braves starting Tuesday night. The last time these two teams met was in late July with the Braves sweeping the three-game series. John Patterson (8-4, 2.43 ERA) faces Jorge Sosa (9-2, 2.56 ERA).

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