In Big Apple, Livan to lead Nats

Nats in Big Apple to begin second season

For the fourth year in a row, the Nationals will begin the 2006 season on the road. Their first game will be against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Monday afternoon.

Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez is making his third consecutive Opening Day start for the organization. In his previous season openers, he lost to the Marlins and Phillies.

There were doubts if he could pitch in this year's opener because of offseason knee surgery, but Hernandez, who is facing the Mets for the 29th time in his career, said he is 100 percent healthy.

"I feel good. Let's see what happens this year. I'm going to try to be better," Hernandez said. "I'm going to do my thing and help the team win. That's more important.

"This year, the Mets have a good team. So you have to go over there and get people out. I know that team is going to hit. They have a couple of names. We have a good team, too, and we are going to play."

The Nationals will have some new faces on Opening Day, from Alfonso Soriano to Ryan Zimmerman.

Soriano will make his regular-season debut in left field. It is expected to be an adventure for the right-handed hitter, who has been a second baseman the last five seasons but has played the outfield for only two weeks.

Soriano said it's easy to catch a routine fly ball, but noted that he has problems when a left-handed hitter hits a ball that slices away from him.

"The balls hit by the lefties move a lot," Soriano said. "That's something I have to be a little bit more worried about. I have to get more concentration. The ball from the righties are not a problem."

For Zimmerman, it will be his first Opening Day and he will be the starting third baseman. Zimmerman, 21, received his first taste of big-league action during the last month of last season and hit close to .400. He has already been compared to Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen on defense.

"I'm excited to get this year off and rolling. It should be an exciting year for me. I'm excited to get it started, get it going," Zimmerman said. "I don't know what to expect. You just settle in like anything else."

If the first game is close at Shea Stadium, one can expect Nationals closer Chad Cordero to be in the game. Last season, he led the Majors in saves with 47.

"I'm feeling good. I'm ready to go," Cordero said. "I'm excited to go back to D.C. for a second year. I know what to expect now."

  Nationals probable lineup
1.CFBrandon Watson
2.2BJose Vidro
3.1BNick Johnson
4.RFJose Guillen
5.LFAlfonso Soriano
6.3BRyan Zimmerman
7.SSRoyce Clayton
8.CBrian Schneider
9.PLivan Hernandez

Pitching matchup
WSH: RHP Livan Hernandez
• 15-10, 3.98 ERA in 2005
• 2-2, 6.16 ERA in 2005 vs. NYM
• 10-10, 4.52 ERA lifetime vs. NYM

NYM: LHP Tom Glavine
• 13-13, 3.53 ERA in 2005
• 3-1, 2.93 ERA in 2005 vs. WSH
• 30-20, 3.41 ERA lifetime vs. NYM

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
WSH: WTWP 1500 AM and 107.7 FM
NYM: WFAN 660 AM, WADO 1280 AM (Español)

On deck
• Wednesday: at New York, 7;10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: at New York, 7;10 p.m. ET
• Friday: at Houston, 8:05 p.m. ET

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