Notes: Rodriguez dropping appeal

Notes: Rodriguez dropping appeal

ST. LOUIS -- After Sunday's game against the Cardinals, Nationals reliever Felix Rodriguez said he was dropping his appeal and will serve his three-game suspension, which would start against the Mets on Monday. Rodriguez would return to action on Thursday against the Marlins in Washington.

On April 6, warnings had already been issued when, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Rodriguez hit Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca with a 1-0 offering. Umpire Rick Reed then ejected both Rodriguez and manager Frank Robinson, with Robinson arguing for several minutes.

Rodriguez received his suspension on April 10, and his hearing was scheduled for Tuesday in New York. But he decided to cancel the hearing because he thought he was going to lose the case.

"He feels like he was going to get the three days any way," Robinson said. "Rather than going through the hearing and put the suspension off until later, he felt he might as well get it over with."

Rodriguez's absence will not hurt the Nationals because they have an extra reliever in Jason Bergmann, who they recalled last week. Robinson also feels that Rodriguez can use the three days off, because he leads all Washington pitchers in appearances with 15.

"Rodriguez will be missed, but it may be a benefit to him because he has been used a lot," Robinson said. "The three days may rejuvenate him a little bit."

Bereavement: Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will not play against the Mets on Monday because he is traveling to attend his grandmother's funeral. Zimmerman will return to the team on Tuesday morning.

In the meantime, Damian Jackson is expected to start at third base on Monday.

More on Zimmerman: As it turned out, Zimmerman was the Nationals' best run producer in April. He drove in a team-high 17 runs, but hit only .242. He also played sparkling defense.

Zimmerman said the biggest thing he had to do was make adjustments. The pitchers are throwing almost nothing but breaking balls to the rookie.

"The first two weeks, I struggled a little a little bit," Zimmerman said. "The last two weeks, I think I made adjustments. My home runs and RBIs are fine. I'm doing the things to drive runs in and help the team win. I'm learning and being patient -- have an idea what the pitchers are trying to do."

Injury report: Robert Fick played catch for the first time since returning from his rehab assignment because of tendinitis in his right shoulder. Fick didn't feel any pain and he was receiving catching tips from bench coach Eddie Rodriguez. Fick hopes to return to his rehab assignment in the upcoming week.

He was originally on the disabled list because of elbow surgery, but he says that the elbow is now 100 percent.

"I just need a few more days of catching up with the throwing and I'll be good to go," Fick said.

Outfielder Ryan Church remained at the team's hotel for the second consecutive day because of flu-like symptoms. Marlon Byrd took his place in center field, which means, according to Robinson, that the Nationals have only a three-man bench. Robinson doesn't include Matthew LeCroy in the mix, because he has to save him in case something happens to starting catcher Brian Schneider.

"I have to be cognizant of when I use the players," Robinson said. "I'm down to three players because of LeCroy. I don't use him unless it's late in the game."

On Saturday, Jackson was ejected for arguing with an umpire in the fourth inning, so that left Robinson with just Marlon Anderson and Daryle Ward on the bench. Both players were used in the ninth inning. Had the Nationals tied the score, LeCroy would have been the only player on the bench.

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Stat of the day: On Saturday, Nick Johnson was unable to reach base via hit or a walk for the first time in 15 games.

Did you know? Last year, the Nationals led the Majors in games decide by one run. They played in 61 of those games, going 30-31.

Coming up: After Sunday's game, the Nationals travel to New York to begin a two-game series against the Mets at Shea Stadium.

Ramon Ortiz will get the start for Washington on Monday, while right-hander Victor Zambrano gets the nod for New York.

Ortiz, who is 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA against the Mets this season, will face them for the third time in 2006. In his last start, Ortiz went deep into the game and saved some of the Nationals' relievers. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits against the Reds.

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