Notes: Armas set for season debut

Notes: Armas set for season debut

NEW YORK -- Nationals pitcher Tony Armas Jr. will make his 2006 debut against the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park.

He never pitched in the Minor League game that was scheduled for Tuesday in Viera, Fla., because he was moved up in the rotation after right-hander Pedro Astacio was placed on the disabled list.

Armas had a bullpen session on Tuesday instead, and proclaimed that he will be good to go on the mound against Houston without thinking about his right shoulder, which has hampered him the last three years.

"I feel healthy," Armas said. "Nothing is bothering me. I'm just anxious to see what's going to happen on the mound. Now I have only two options: You do badly or you do good."

Armas has had to go on the disabled list during each of the past three seasons because of shoulder problems, the worst coming in 2003, when he tore his rotator cuff and labrum. While he didn't have any shoulder problems this spring, Armas was inconsistent on the mound, giving up nine runs in 11 innings.

Remember when: Mets third baseman David Wright has known Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman since they were in high school in Virginia. So close are the two that they worked out together this past offseason.

Wright said Zimmerman has come a long way since those days. Wright remembered that he was always bigger than Zimmerman, but Zimmerman now towers over his position rival.

"To see him from the end of high school to now, he made leaps and bounds," Wright said. "He has prospered so much that he looks like a different person. He grew a lot, he filled out. He has all the tools. He has a great idea at the plate. It's good to see how he has matured.

"I was always bigger than him. Now he towers over me. It seems intimidating. He's one of those guys you love to root for."

D.C. occasion: The Nationals announced that Vice President Dick Cheney will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at their home opener on Tuesday. Cheney will become the first vice president to throw out the first pitch in Washington since Hubert Humphrey did the honors in 1968.

Last year, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at the Nationals' home opener.

Injury report: Catcher/first baseman Robert Fick hit off a batting tee for the third day in row and said that his surgically repaired right elbow is feeling better. Fick is hoping to take live batting practice while Washington is in Houston this weekend.

"They are probably taking it slow with me," Fick said. "I guess that is good for me. I don't want to take it slow, but I guess I have to."

A new deal: The Nationals named their medical staff for the 2006 season. Dr. Ben Shaffer will serve as the team orthopedist, and he will be joined by Dr. Bruce Thomas, who returns as head team physician and medical director.

Both doctors are members of the DC SportsMedicine Institute, and practice in the group of MacCartee, Haas, Grossman, Connell and Shaffer, in addition to serving on the staff at Sibley Memorial Hospital. Last year, the Nationals had a deal with MedStar and were affiliated with Washington Hospital Center.

Did you know? Second baseman Jose Vidro is one of 10 active players -- Garrett Anderson, Craig Biggio, Derek Jeter, Mike Lieberthal, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Tim Salmon, Mike Sweeney and Bernie Williams are the others -- to play at least 15 professional seasons with their original club. Vidro was drafted by the Expos in the fifth round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft.

Coming up: The Nationals play the finale of a three-game series against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Thursday. Ramon Ortiz will get the start for Washington, while Pedro Martinez will get the nod for New York.

Ortiz will face the Mets for the third time in his career. He is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA against them. The Nationals are hoping that Ortiz, who is playing for his third team in three years, will be the quality pitcher that he was with the Angels back in 2002, when he won 15 games and had a 3.77 ERA.

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