Notes: Nats warned, ready for opener

Notes: Nats warned, ready for opener

HOUSTON -- Manager Frank Robinson will talk to his team before the Nationals begin their series against the Mets on Tuesday, but he won't be issuing any strong warnings.

The two teams were involved in a tense incident in their series last week when Mets pitchers hit Jose Guillen three times and Nationals reliever Felix Rodriguez was thrown out of a game for hitting Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca. Rodriguez and Robinson each received suspensions on Monday for the episode.

"I'll probably talk to them," Robinson said. "I don't think I'll tell them to be careful or anything like that. I'm sure there will be a pre-warning before the game from the umpires and we'll mention that.

"We have to play the way we normally do. We can't worry about the umpires and we can't be afraid to pitch inside."

Major League Baseball's vice president of on-field operations, Bob Watson, said the teams will be aware that no further incidents will be tolerated.

"There is a heads-up in place," Watson said. "But there's no conversation with the clubs. It's the normal provisions in place for a situation like this, but we expect them to just play ball."

Wingless flight: Robinson believes Eddie Rodriguez is a natural to take his place on the bench on Monday as Robinson sat out his one-game suspension from Major League Baseball.

Rodriguez is the Nationals bench coach who is in his third year of working with Robinson. He normally works closely with the manager on daily schedules, statistical analysis, lineups and game management, and filled in for him one game against Pittsburgh last year.

"He has a feel for the way I run a game," Robinson said. "I'm not going to say a lot to him. I don't want him to be strictly tied to that way of managing. We'll just talk about pitching changes and guys who need a day off and things like that."

Robinson joked that Rodriguez was very excited about the opportunity to sit in the manager's spot again.

"If we were going home right now," Robinson said, "he wouldn't need to go on the airplane."

Rodriguez is just glad Robinson decided to get his suspension over quickly and told Rodriguez of his new assignment on Monday.

"I didn't find out [about managing] until I got here this morning," said Rodriguez, who was 1-0 as a manager before this game. "I'd rather not know about it a day or two ahead of time because then I'd just go home and think, 'Tomorrow's the day.' This way I just did what I do every day.

"I'm going to handle it as if Frank is right there with me."

Decision time: Shortstop Cristian Guzman is still with the club and rehabbing his ailing right shoulder. His fate for this season could be decided soon.

"It's at the point that we will probably make a decision in the next seven days," general manager Jim Bowden said. "We're not pushing him but we need to see where he's at."

Guzman, who went on the disabled list March 27, retroactive to March 24, has been bothered by the shoulder much of Spring Training. He will likely either continue rehab or consider season-ending surgery within the week.

Mechanical work: Reliever Joey Eischen has given up five earned runs in his last two appearances and that's not acceptable to the veteran.

"I'm hurting us the last couple of games and I'm not where I should be mentally," Eischen said. "Right now, I'm thinking too much. I'm not a cute pitcher. I just need to throw it up there.

"I feel I can get it worked out. I just have to work on some of my mechanics. I'm not pitching smart now and I need to change whatever it is I'm doing. I will fix it."

Coming up: The Nationals go back home on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET for what could be a volatile series with the Mets after last week's battle between the two teams. Ramon Ortiz (0-1, 10.80) will try to bounce back from a woeful five-inning start at New York when he allowed six earned runs. He'll face Brian Bannister (0-0, 4.50).

Jim Carley is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.