WASHINGTON (AP) -Only two National League teams have a staff ERA higher than Washington's 4.71, and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden took a not-so-veiled shot Thursday at the starting rotation he assembled.
Asked whether he'll have a tough roster decision to make once right-hander Shawn Hill is ready to come off the 15-day disabled list, Bowden smirked.
``You're not watching our pitching staff? The decisions are really easy. It's simple: Get me better pitching,'' the GM said. ``I've got lots of moves I can make.''
The Nationals allowed 10 runs in each of their previous two games, against the Florida Marlins on Monday and Wednesday. Both nights, Florida scored seven runs while Washington's starters - Tim Redding, then Jason Bergmann - were in the game.
Hill had hoped to be Washington's opening day starter, but he went on the disabled list during spring training with a bothersome right forearm. He is slated to make a second minor league rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Columbus.
Bowden was asked whether that upcoming appearance will be enough for Hill to be ready to pitch for the Nationals.
``I hope so. I'm rooting for him,'' Bowden said. ``I don't like watching starting pitchers give up seven runs a game. I'm not a fan of that. I don't want our fans to have to watch that. So I'm looking for pitchers that are going to stand up and get people out, keep us in ballgames.''
Redding is 1-1 with a 0.82 ERA - six of the runs he allowed in his four innings Monday were unearned - and John Lannan is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in one appearance. But the numbers look far worse for Bergmann (0-1, 10.45), Odalis Perez (0-1, 6.00) and Matt Chico (0-1, 5.56).
Perez started Thursday's game against Florida, hoping to end Washington's six-game skid.
``We're playing hard. We're playing good baseball. Are we getting every clutch hit we need? No. Are we getting the quality starts maybe we need to win? No,'' manager Manny Acta said. ``But we're still playing decent baseball out there. The guys are playing hard, working hard, giving me the effort.''
The Nationals think they could have their closer, Chad Cordero, back by the weekend. The right-hander, who went on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis before pitching in a game, is scheduled to make a second rehab appearance at Class-A Potomac on Friday.
He threw one inning there Wednesday, and Acta said, ``He had good command. Just want to see him one more time out there.''
``My shoulder felt great. I was able to throw my fastball and my slider for strikes, and that's what I really needed to go down there - to see if I was able to do that,'' Cordero said.
His velocity was around 86-88 mph, Bowden said, which is 3-5 mph slower than where Cordero tops out.
``We're not concerned,'' Bowden said.
Notes: OF Wily Mo Pena (side muscle) went 3-for-3 with a double and homer at extended spring training Thursday. He'll play at Columbus on Saturday. ``We'll take it day by day, but I'm hoping at least by next weekend he's playing (for Washington) - and maybe earlier,'' Bowden said. ... The team isn't sure when 1B Dmitri Young (lower back) will be able to resume baseball activities. ``It's been slower than we had hoped,'' Bowden said. ... OF Elijah Dukes (hamstring) will be brought back slowly. ``We're not putting him back on the field until his hamstring is 100 percent,'' Bowden said. ``I'm not rushing him.''

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