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The Chief: Uh-oh

So entering last night's game, there seemed to be a nice little story about the lineup changes and the offense. But then, the closer came in, threw his first "fast"ball at 76 mph, and the early story gets blown up.

We'll get to that. If you want to know where the pope will get dressed for this morning's mass, ask Manny Acta. More important, people were asking about Lenny Harris on the Journal and in the chat. Here's the hitting coach on the offensive struggles, which now leave the Nationals with a major league-worst .227 average. (That's hard to do.)

I asked him if he had any concerns. "Concerns?" he said. "No. Not at all. Not at all."

I asked what he was working on with certain guys. "Everything," he said. "These guys hit more than three and four baseball teams. They hit every day. We just need to execute in the game."

So what's going on? "It's just pretty much they've been reacting to too much in the game," Harris said. "Instead of getting it done, they're worried about the next pitch. A lot of guys trying to do too much. We had some guys last year that had good years. They're pressing right now."

That could be the case. Zim: 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position. Kearns: first homer, but it's his only hit, and he leads the NL with six GIDPs. Lineup shuffle works for Belliard, who gets two hits, and Milledge came up with runners on base, hitting the ball hard a couple times with nothing to show for it. The Weapon had four decent at-bats, too, but only one hit.

Back to Cordero. If you think this is not a concern - he threw 20 pitches Wednesday night, none faster than 82 mph - then you have not listened to the top Nationals' officials.

"It's a concern," GM Jim Bowden said. "He said he wasn't able to warm up properly in this cold weather, but he threw a lot of pitches and didn't get there."

"We're just worried about the lack of velocity," Manny Acta said. "We wanted to talk to him about what it's all about. He said he doesn't feel any pain, so we have to go [on] what he says."

Cordero is adamant that he doesn't feel any pain. But there is clearly something wrong. As the gamer says, Acta, Bowden and Cordero had a 15-minute meeting in Acta's office at Shea Stadium after the game.

"They just wanted to make sure everything was all right, basically," Cordero said. "They wanted to make sure the arm was fine. Whenever you see someone throwing 79, that's kind of a concern for everybody. But I told them exactly what it was. I didn't have enough time to get ready. They just said to keep doing all my exercises. Hopefully going down to Florida [for the next series] will help me out."

So what to make of all this? For now, Jon Rauch is your closer. How do you feel about that?

By Barry Svrluga  |  April 17, 2008; 6:56 AM ET
 
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Next: Franchise values, Lo Duca update -- and that bench

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