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Notes: Lo Duca expected to talk

Notes: Lo Duca expected to talk

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca is scheduled to take his physical on Saturday morning, and general manager Jim Bowden indicated that Lo Duca may talk to reporters or issue a written statement that same day.

Lo Duca has yet to talk about the Mitchell Report, which claimed that the catcher purchased human growth hormone from Kirk Radomski, a bat boy, equipment manager and clubhouse attendant for the Mets from 1985-95. The report said that Lo Duca made these purchases as a member of the Dodgers and Marlins.

The Nationals are not sure if Lo Duca will be suspended. Bowden acknowledged on Friday that the Commissioner's Office has the Lo Duca case under review.

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"We support the Commissioner's Office 100 percent and the Players Association trying to rid our sport of the problems," Bowden said. "I don't know the facts and the truth of the entire [Lo Duca] situation, so I'll leave it up to those people who know those things."

Lo Duca, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal, is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and is expected to miss a handful of exhibition games.

"A veteran guy like Paul needs 10 days at the end of the spring to probably be ready," Bowden said. "I don't think there is any question that with [Jesus] Flores and [Johnny] Estrada [on the roster], we don't have to rush [Lo Duca] back. I have zero issue with that. I'm very comfortable that we have three quality Major League catchers."

Shawn on the Hill: More than four months after having surgery on his right forearm and left shoulder, right-hander Shawn Hill announced that he is ready to pitch without any problems. Hill has been throwing on the mound since the beginning of January.

The only thing he can't do right away is hit a baseball because of his non-throwing shoulder. Hill hurt the shoulder last April while running the bases against the Marlins. By May, he was put on the disabled list because of elbow soreness, and after he hurt the shoulder, Hill believes his mechanics went out of whack and he put too much stress on the elbow.

"The elbow is fine," Hill said. "It hasn't bothered me at all. It's something where [the shoulder put stress] on the elbow. With rest, it has been fine."

Spring Training
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Hill is projected to be in the top of the Nationals' rotation along with John Patterson. Hill is coming of a season in which he went 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 16 games. Like Patterson, Hill has his eyes set on pitching Opening Day at Nationals Park against the Braves.

"It's something I thought about," he said. "I wouldn't lie about that, but it's something that is not up to me, obviously. But If I come out healthy and it falls into to place, great. If not, I have no problem with that."

The first-base dilemma: Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young are both healthy and will compete for the first-base job this spring. Bowden acknowledged that both players would prefer to play every day and didn't rule out trading one of them.

Last year, Young won the Comeback Player of the Year Award after hitting .320 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs. The last time Johnson played was in 2006, when he hit .290 with 23 home runs and a .428 on-base percentage. Johnson missed all of 2007 due to a broken right leg.

"They are both everyday players," Bowden said. "If they are both healthy, it may be possible that one has to be moved to make that work. It doesn't mean that we are going to. But it's something we have to look at [during] that time because we don't have the DH rule and Interleague games aren't until June."

The chief is back: Closer Chad Cordero was working out on Friday, and said he is in the best shape of his life, having lost 10 pounds during the offseason. He hopes that losing the weight will help him keep his stamina throughout the season.

Cordero acknowledged that he ran out of gas the last three seasons. In 2007, for example, he had a 5.07 ERA in the last two months of the season.

"The last couple of years, I got tired towards the end, and my numbers have shown that, too," Cordero said. "Hopefully without the extra weight, I'll be able to stay healthy."

The missing people: Eight players -- Flores, Luis Ayala, Eude Brito, Jesus Colome, Humberto Cota, Katsuhiko Maekawa, Arnie Munoz and Ismael Ramirez -- did not make it in time to Florida because of visa issues.

Quote of the day: "We wanted some pretty good makeup guys around some of our young players, who are learning and maturing. They can learn and mature quicker than I did." -- Bowden, on the veteran bench players he acquired this offseason

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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