<
>

Washington 6, Detroit 5

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Dean Palmer walked off the field with a
smile after hitting a home run he favorably compared to any of his
275 major league homers.

Palmer, attempting a comeback after retiring last year because
of neck and shoulder injuries, hasn't played a full season since
2000.

His two-run homer gave the Detroit Tigers a three-run lead in
the sixth inning before the Washington Nationals rallied for a 6-5
victory Monday.

Palmer popped out and struck out in his first two at-bats before
hitting a home run over the left-field wall off Sun-woo Kim. Palmer
was shocked to make such solid contact after his struggles earlier
in the game.

"That homer gives me a lot of confidence," the non-roster
invitee said. "If I (struck out) it would've been tough on me."

Palmer made his first start at third base and threw to second to
start a double play, the only opportunity he had in the field.

Washington's Tony Blanco tied the game with a sacrifice fly in a
three-run seventh and hit a game-winning double in the ninth. The
Nationals have come from behind to win each of their four
exhibitions, and the Tigers lost for the first time this spring.

Tony Armas Jr. had a lackluster start for the Nationals after
pitching two scoreless innings in their opener last week.

Armas allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while
striking out two over three innings. He was 2-4 with a 4.88 ERA
last season, his first after shoulder surgery, and his career
record is 32-41.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but if he wins
12, 13, 14 or 15 games, that would be outstanding," Nationals
manager Frank Robinson said.

Armas said his goals don't include a certain number of wins.

"I just want to feel like I am right now," he said. "I just
want to be healthy."

The Tigers have a healthy competition in left field where Craig
Monroe, Rondell White and Bobby Higginson are vying for the
starting job.

Higginson hit a solo homer in the third off Armas and White went
2-for-3, improving to 7-for-10 this spring. Monroe, who didn't play
Monday, is 2-for-5 this spring.

"I just want the decision for them to be a tough one,"
Higginson said.

Though many have speculated at least one of the three will be
moved before the season, Tigers president and general manager Dave
Dombrowski said Monday he doesn't expect much of a shakeup.

"I don't anticipate making a major deal," Dombrowski said.

Tigers owner Mike Ilitch said he didn't think Higginson would be
released, as some have predicted. Higginson, making $8.85 million
this season, is in the final year of his contract.

Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman gave up one run on one hit and three
walks while striking out three over three innings.

"There were some positives because I got out of some jams," he
said. "But there were some negatives because some walks got me
into those jams."

The Nationals made their first round of cuts, sending 11 players
to their minor league camp, leaving 49 on their roster.

"This is probably the earliest I've ever had a roster trimmed
down in spring training," Robinson said. "What's good about it
is, it allows me to zero in a little bit more on the players we
have."

Game notes
Tigers manager Alan Trammell expects Magglio Ordonez to
make his Detroit debut this week as a designated hitter. .... J.J.
Davis hit a solo homer on 1-2 count with two outs in the fourth off
Tigers closer Troy Percival. ... Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez was
2-for-3 with a double and scored a run. ... Washington LHP Bill
Bray, a 2004 first-round pick, was among the players sent to minor
league camp Monday.