Notes: Suspensions to be handed out

Notes: Suspensions to be handed out

HOUSTON -- Bob Watson, Major League Baseball's vice president of on-field operations, had a meeting with manager Frank Robinson on Saturday afternoon to talk about the incident between the Nationals and Mets two days earlier. The session lasted about an hour in Robinson's office at Minute Maid Park.

Warnings had already been given out when, in the bottom of the eighth inning with Jose Reyes on third base, Nationals reliever Felix Rodriguez hit Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca with a 1-0 offering. Umpire Rick Reed then ejected both Rodriguez and Robinson, with Robinson arguing with Reed for several minutes.

Robinson will serve a one-game suspension, while Rodriguez will serve three games. Those were the rules that were put in place by Robinson, himself, when he was Major League Baseball's vice president of rules and on-field operations.

While Robinson has accepted being suspended, he acknowledged that he talked to Watson about the system being changed. While he wouldn't say what he and Watson talked about, Robinson mentioned to the local media on Friday that suspensions for relievers are severe while starters get five games or one start.

"Every system has flaws, but over time, it has been updated on some things. But there are still things that could be tweaked, but nobody is going to fully agree," Robinson said.

Watson said an announcement on the suspension most likely will be made sometime next week, but Robinson and Rodriguez will not have to serve their suspensions during the team's home opener against the Mets in Washington.

"I will not get them for home openers. If you notice the last couple of years, I've always given them home openers, and it's always the day after because [home openers] are special days," Watson said.

It's also up in the air whether outfielder Jose Guillen will face a suspension after a near brawl with Mets right-hander Pedro Martinez, who hit Guillen twice with pitches.

Watson did not talk to Guillen on Saturday because there wasn't a union representative available for such a meeting.

"I probably won't do that until I issue discipline. He'll get his process in an appeal, and we'll get it out that way," Watson said.

With the two clubs playing each other again next week, warnings are expected to be issued before each game.

"I will say there will be a 'heads up.' That's the program where the tolerance level is very low," Watson said.

On the bench: Robinson had a meeting with catcher Bran Schneider and outfielder Brandon Watson and told them that they will sit against left-handers Andy Pettitte and Wandy Rodriguez on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Both Watson and Schneider are in slumps to start the season. Entering Saturday, Schneider is 0-for-13, while Watson is 2-for-16 to start the season. According to Robinson, both players were surprised by the move.

Robinson said on Friday that both players are moving their bodies too much. He wants them to stay back and use their hands.

"I'm not letting the ball get to me. I'm trying to keep working on it and make that adjustment," Watson said.

When Schneider had slumps in the past, it was usually because he was tired and overworked behind the plate. But now the lack of hitting is magnified because he played in the World Baseball Classic and didn't get a lot of at-bats during Spring Training.

"I've gone 0-for-12 -- you don't know how many times in my career. It just so happens it's the start of the season," Schneider said. "I'm trying to treat it as if it's the middle of the season.

"I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself. There are 158 games left. I'm not worried about putting too much pressure on myself the first four games of the year. The hits are going to come when they come. I hope they come sooner rather than later.

"It probably wasn't the best time to go to [the World Baseball Classic]. But it happens every few years. Like I said, I don't take it back. I'd do it again. I will never retract that statement, either."

Outfielder Marlon Byrd and Wiki Gonzalez will replace Watson and Schneider in the lineup, respectively.

"It will give me a chance to give them at-bats before they lose that edge that they had coming out of Spring Training," Robinson said.

Injury report: Guillen said his forearm is still sore after being hit by a Brandon Backe pitch on Friday night. But Guillen was available to pitch-hit on Saturday and most likely will start against the Astros on Sunday.

"I told Frank that I will be available to be a pinch-hitter probably around the end [of Saturday's game]," Guillen said.

After being hit by pitches four times this season, Guillen plans to start wearing a protective shield.

"I've had so many problems with my arm. I have to really protect that whole arm because I don't want anything to go wrong early in the season," Guillen said.

John Patterson had a bullpen session on Friday. His right forearm is pain-free and will be able to make his second start of the season against the Astros on Monday.

After his last start against the Mets on Wednesday, Patterson said he couldn't throw his slider because of the injury. He lasted four innings and gave up four runs. Patterson was able to throw the slider in the bullpen session.

Around the horn: Rodriguez has appeared in the Nationals' first four games and will get the day off on Saturday. ... During Robinson's one-game suspension, bench coach Eddie Rodriguez will manage the club.

Stat of the day: In the 37 innings they have played entering Saturday's game, the Nationals have led in a game only once, and that came in the 10th inning, when they took a 9-4 lead against the Mets on Wednesday.

Did you know? Entering Saturday's action, Robinson has employed the same eight players in his starting lineup in the first four games of the 2006 season. The last time the franchise had the same lineup during the first four games of the season was back in 1985, when it was the Montreal Expos.

The streak, however, came to an end for the Nationals on Saturday because Guillen didn't start because of a forearm injury.

Coming up: The Nationals return to Minute Maid Park on Sunday afternoon to play the Astros.

Right-hander Ryan Drese will make his 2006 debut for Washington, while Andy Pettitte will get the nod for Houston.

Drese will face the Astros for the fifth time in his career. He is 0-4 with a 5.40 ERA against them. Drese replaces Pedro Astacio, who was placed on the disabled list last week because of a right flexor strain. Robinson indicated that Drese would have made the rotation had he not started the season on the DL.

Drese had shoulder surgery in September, and Washington purposely started him off slowly. Drese didn't start throwing in a game until March 24.

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