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Man Bites Dog

Or in other words: Good news for the Washington Nationals.

Ryan Wagner made his first appearance this season in the Nationals clubhouse. He still seems a ways from rejoining the club, but his spirits were exceedingly high before the game and he will begin throwing simulated games. He is ahead of schedule recovering from the SLAP surgery Dr. James Andrews performed on his right shoulder almost a year ago to the day, on June 5. SLAP, Dave Sheinin just told me (still Adam Kilgore), "stands for something." That something: A tear of the Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior.

This seems to be pretty significant, given that Wagner was the 14th overall pick in the 2003 draft and was a part of that Kearns-Lopez Cincinnati Reds trade. But Zimmerman's official DLing gives it somewhat short shrift in the paper tomorrow. So here's the latest from Wagner from Wagner.

Oh, first: It's 4-0 Cards, the Nationals have committed two errors, haven't scored in 21 innings and Jesus Colome just entered after Odalis Perez lasted only three innings. He gave up five hits and allowed four runs, three of which were unearned. Oh, and Rob Mackowiak, who pinch hit for Perez, grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw. They just put the tarp on, and it's raining like crazy. Not a banner day so far for Washington.

But, hey, back to Wagner! Here's the best of what he said.

I'm going to be throwing in some sim games while I'm here. I have been pitching in games down there for a couple months now. Everything went good. Velocity is real close. As soon as the team goes, I'm going to start my rehab assignment.

Besides trying to stay sane? Every day is Groundhog Day down there. All noon games, and even in the games I'm pitching in, it's hard when you go from pitching in front of 40,000 to pitching in extended with nobody in the stands and a 12 o'clock game. It's real hard to get up for those games. It's hard to get your adrenaline there. But seeing my fastball get up to 90 mph there with no adrenaline makes me feel confident that I'm going to be pretty good once the lights come on.

Yeah, everything is good. I went at it full-flow game down there for at least a month and a half, going two and three innings at a time, trying to get pitch counts up. A lot of that has to do with building arm strength. With shoulder guys, it's all about building the arm strength and trying to get velocity back.

Once you get a taste of the big leagues, there's nothing else like it. It's just getting back up here, it's like being in the minor leagues for the first time and being real close to the big leagues. You just want to work hard. And since I've been here for a while now, I know what it's like. I want to compete again. There's not a guy in here that doesn't love to compete. I just want to get out there and play in some games that really mean something, whether it's in my first rehab game in Potomac or here in Washington . I just want to get out there and play.

Everything I told you, my schedule, that's just hearsay for now. I don't know exactly where I'm going to be, how long I'm going to be there, where I'm going to go from there. I mean, it could be the full 30 days or trade, somebody gets hurt, a number of things where they say, 'Oh, we need him now.' So rehab guys just never know.

I'm real close. Like I said, I've been coming out of the bullpen in extended for a month. So, coming out of the bullpen throwing the fifth, sixth or fifth, sixth, seventh, the velocity is there. I've got to think that I'm close. I mean, they wouldn't send me on a rehab assignment if I wasn't.

I think it's to make sure I'm where I need to be mechanically. And I'm not even a year out. I had a lot of anchors put in my shoulder, and I'm not even a year out. I was told a minimum of 12-18 by Dr. Andrews. Where I am now is pretty awesome. It's just a lot of hard work to get where I'm at. We're just trying to build from that. You'll hear every trainer in the world say, 'it's all about time.' The more you throw, the stronger you're going to get. We're still trying to build arm strength. And it gives these guys a chance to look at me and see where I'm at.

As long as I've been doing this rehab, you have to know your body in terms of what do I pitch through and what do I say, 'OK, this is enough for today.' That's probably what I've learned the most--when I can turn it up a notch and when I might need to level down a little bit. Doing that has gotten few and far between. Because I'm getting stronger, the times that I've had to keel down a little bit have gotten less. Now I can go, alright, I can frickin' go get them.

I'm in a big league clubhouse in a brand new stadium. I'm back with my guys that I've been with for a couple of years now, so it just feels good to get out of Viera. No more noon games. It's good to be back with the guys.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 3, 2008; 8:10 PM ET
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