Notes: Guillen gets pleasant surprise

Notes: Guillen gets pleasant surprise

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Jose Guillen took batting practice for the first time on Wednesday morning, one week earlier than expected.

Guillen took 30 swings, hit a few balls out of Space Coast Stadium and didn't feel any pain, which surprised the outfielder because he said his shoulder is only 75 percent healthy. Guillen spent most of the offseason recovering from left shoulder surgery. He injured the shoulder in June 2005, while sliding into home plate against the Blue Jays.

"To me, to take those swings I was taking today, I was pretty impressed," Guillen said. "It was no problem. I had no soreness or anything. I just hit in the regular group. Everything is feeling good. I can't complain."

Guillen said he could play against the Pirates on Thursday, but he indicated he is going to take his time and make sure that he is 100 percent healthy. Guillen isn't expected to play an exhibition game until the middle of March.

"The truth is, [the shoulder is] like 75 percent, and that's pretty good for me," Guillen said. "That's pretty much the way I was playing last year, maybe less. I am going to make sure I get the shoulder 100 percent strong. It's going to be up to me, not up to the trainer, when I am going to be ready to play. "

Guillen said he most likely will not take batting practice on Thursday.

He's cleared: Pedro Astacio, who signed with the Nationals on Monday, underwent an MRI exam on his shoulder and elbow Wednesday, and he was ruled healthy. Astacio will report to camp on Thursday.

Change of plans: Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. will not pitch against the Pirates after all on Friday. The World Baseball Classic would like the players to be in camp and working out on that day, so Armas is going to Clearwater, Fla., to represent the Venezuelan team.

Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire said he doesn't know who will pitch in Armas' place against the Pirates.

"I have to go back to the drawing board," St. Claire said.

St. Claire said that he may have to pull back some of the relievers he had scheduled for Thursday's game against Pittsburgh and have them pitch the following day.

First game: John Patterson pitched one inning and gave up two runs on three hits against the Kia Tigers. He was supposed to throw two innings, but he reached his 35-pitch limit in the first inning.

"He was all right, but the Tigers can make it rough, because they put the bat on the ball," manager Frank Robinson said. "It's no big deal."

Patterson felt he was squeezed by home-plate umpire Ed Hickox, but the righty wasn't perturbed in the locker room after he left the game. It looked like Patterson had Yong-Kyu Lee caught looking on strikes, but Hickox called it a ball. Lee ended up hitting a double to left-center field.

"It's probably that [umpire's] first inning," Patterson said. "He hasn't seen a pitch all winter. I'll give him that one."

Patterson said that he was going to start throwing a changeup this spring, but he didn't have chance to use it.

"I never got into a groove or a count where I could throw it, and there weren't many lefties to face," Patterson said. "But I'll work it in. It was just one inning."

Mixed results for LeCroy at catcher: Robinson acknowledged that Matt LeCroy is on the team because of his bat, but the skipper had LeCroy start the first game of the exhibition season behind the plate. The results were mixed.

After Patterson threw a wild pitch in the first inning, LeCroy threw out Lee, who was trying to advance to third base. However, he later missed a popup hit by Sung-Min Lim.

Rough outing: Before going to the World Baseball Classic, Chad Cordero gave up four runs, three earned, in one-third of an inning on Wednesday, but Robinson was not concerned about his closer's outing.

"He threw the ball well and freely, but he was up with his pitches," Robinson said. "He hung a slider. That's going to happen."

Cordero acknowledged that the slider was his worst pitch of the day.

"My pitches felt fine," Cordero said. "The fastball was fine, my changeup was fine. The slider [was bad]. Everything is hanging, but it was the first day."

Injury report: Catcher/first baseman Robert Fick had an MRI exam taken on Tuesday, and it was revealed that he has loose bodies in his right elbow. While he said that the elbow is feeling better thanks to new medicine he is taking, Fick is contemplating having an operation, which would mean he would be out four to six weeks and would not start the season on time.

Reliever Joey Eischen threw a bullpen session for eight minutes on Wednesday, and he said that his left shoulder feels much better.

Being cautious with Eischen, the Nationals are not planning to use the left-hander during the first five games of the exhibition season.

Hollywood sighting: Actor Mickey Carroll was spotted at the game on Wednesday. He is making a tour of Spring Training camps. Carroll is best known for being a munchkin in the "Wizard of Oz."

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