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Notes: Cordero ready to reclaim role

Notes: Cordero going back to his role

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday, right-hander Chad Cordero had his best outing of the season, pitching one shutout inning against the Braves and throwing a season-low 11 pitches. It also marked the first time since late April that Cordero pitched in back-to-back games.

Cordero said he is back to being his old self after returning from California on Sunday night. Cordero missed six games last week to be with his grandmother, Josie, who passed away last Friday from brain cancer.

"I had my grandmother on my mind. Before, I was thinking about her way too much," Cordero said. "Now, I'm just going to concentrate on baseball."

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Manager Manny Acta said that Cordero will have the day off on Thursday and return to his closer's role on Friday night against the Orioles. Acta didn't want to put any pressure on Cordero, so Acta started Cordero slowly by making him a middle reliever and setup man.

"I totally understood why Manny did it. I was off for 10 days or so," Cordero said. "They did the best for the team and they eased me back in."

Cordero acknowledged that it was tough to watch Jon Rauch close games, but understood it was about winning games.

"Jon did a great job, but I wanted to be back out there in the ninth inning, but seeing him out there has been good," Cordero said.

Lineup change: Shortstop Cristian Guzman has played in nine straight games since coming off the DL, so Acta decided to give him the day off and insert Ronnie Belliard at the position. Acta has said since Spring Training that Belliard could play shortstop, and this will be the second time in his career that Belliard has played the position.

Belliard has been platooning with Robert Fick at first base, but with Belliard at short, Acta put Tony Batista at first, a position he had never played until Friday. Batista has been taking ground balls at the position for several days.

Injury report: First baseman Dmitri Young will not start the next few games due to a sore left Achilles tendon. The Nationals are not thinking about putting him on the disabled list, because he can still swing the bat without any problems. Young's biggest problem is that he feels pain when he stops running, according to Acta.

Getting better: Entering Thursday's action, the Nationals have won five out of their last six games, and one of the reasons for the improved play is the bench. Gone are struggling players like Josh Wilson, Michael Restovich, Kory Casto and D'Angelo Jimenez and they have been replaced by Belliard, Batista, Ryan Langerhans and Nook Logan.

"It's a big difference," Acta said. "We have some guys now coming off the bench who can strike some fear into the opposition and really be a threat off the bench."

A sighting: Prospect Ian Desmond visited the Nationals on Friday, as a guest of Fick. Desmond plays for Class A Potomac and the team had a day off. Desmond is hitting .248 with six home runs and 15 RBIs.

Desmond was the Nationals' top prospect in 2005, but his offense and defense were below average last season.

Desmond said he is more patient at the plate because he already has 15 walks for the season and a .333 on-base percentage. Defensively, he is making the routine plays, but continues to struggle on the harder ones.

Stat of the day: Entering Thursday's action, the starting staff has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 25 of the last 35 games.

Did you know: Starting on Friday, the Nationals will play 34 consecutive games against non-NL East clubs.

Coming up: The Nationals begin a three-game series against the Orioles, starting Friday night at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. In Game 1, Washington right-hander Jason Simontacchi will face Baltimore right-hander Steve Trachsel.

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

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