NEW YORK -- Manager Frank Robinson said that Alfonso Soriano could be taken out late in games for defensive purposes, with Marlon Byrd most likely being the person replacing Soriano. Damian Jackson will be the second option whenever the skipper needs an outfielder.

According to Robinson, such a move would make the team's bench weaker, because he wouldn't be able to use Byrd early in the game if he so desires.

"I can't all of a sudden use Byrd in the fourth and fifth inning as a pinch-hitter and then lose him," Robinson said. "Byrd is a good defensive outfielder. I know he could play center and left. He can catch the ball in right. Jackson is pretty good in center field."

However, Soriano played the entire game in left field on Monday afternoon and he looked like he was getting the hang of the position.

In the third inning, switch-hitter Jose Reyes hit a line drive to Soriano, who made the catch and prevented a run from scoring. In the next inning, David Wright hit a lazy fly ball down the left-field line that Soriano ran under and caught up to. During Spring Training, Soriano sometimes let those sort of fly balls drop in for base hits.

Soriano, however did make a couple of mistakes with the glove. In the fourth inning, Xavier Nady doubled down the left-field line. Soriano slowly charged for the ball, which allowed Cliff Floyd, not one of the fastest runners in baseball, to score all the way from first base.

Soriano thought the ball was going to bounce back to him, but the ball stayed near the corner of the wall.

In the sixth, Soriano was playing too deep and allowed a routine fly ball hit by Nady drop in for a base hit.

"We don't have a veteran outfielder out there. Judge the individual that is out there. Don't judge him against everybody," Robinson said.

Overall, Soriano thought he looked good in left field against the Mets.

"I looked great today. I hope I continue to play like [Monday]," Soriano said.

Asked how he turned his game around in left field, Soriano said, "In Spring Training, sometimes you act a little lazy, but you put everything behind you [during the regular season], and you have concentration in the game and play hard."

Here's the deal: Ryan Drese will start against the Astros on April 9, replacing Pedro Astacio, who was put on the disabled list on Saturday because of a right flexor strain.

Robinson indicated that Drese would have made the rotation had he not started the season on the DL. Drese had shoulder surgery in September, and Washington purposely started him off slowly. Drese didn't start throwing in a game until March 24.

"He's a good option for us right now in that situation," Robinson said.

On Monday, Drese pitched five innings and threw 70 pitches, and he then threw 10 more in a bullpen session.

"He said he felt good," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said.

John Rauch was not considered an option to replace Astacio, because the skipper feels Rauch is best suited as the long man out of the bullpen.

"I like Rauch the way he is. I don't want to be moving him back and forth unless it's completely necessary," Robinson said. "I want him to settle into his role in the bullpen. If he's the best option during the course of the year, we'll [put him in the rotation]."

Injury report: Catcher-infielder Robert Fick rejoined the Nationals after spending a week in California with his ailing mother. Fick, who is on the disabled list, said that his surgically repaired right elbow is feeling better. In fact, he hit off a batting tee for the first time on Monday. Fick was already throwing the baseball before he went to California.

Fick is hoping that he is activated by the time the Nationals play their home opener against the Mets on April 11.

"By the time we leave New York, I'm hoping I could leave and play in Minor League games," Fick said. "I'm getting my work in. Let's see what happens."

Shortstop Cristian Guzman, on the disabled list because of a tear in his right shoulder, is traveling with the team. Guzman is still trying to avoid surgery, but the shoulder is feeling tight, according to Guzman.

Around the horn: Jose Vidro made his seventh consecutive Opening Day start. ... Ryan Zimmerman is the franchise's 10th Opening Day starter at third base since Tim Wallach left the organization after the 1991 season. ... Robinson holds the record for Opening Day home runs with eight. ... Chad Cordero is 8-for-8 in save opportunities against the Mets. ... Robinson needs six wins for 1,000 victories as a Major League manager.

Did you know? Monday's starters Livan Hernandez and Tom Glavine have both been World Series Most Valuable Players. Glavine won the award with the Braves in 1995, while Hernandez won the MVP two years later with the Marlins.

Coming up: The Nationals will have the day off on Tuesday and then return to Shea Stadium on Wednesday night to play the Mets in the second game of a three-game series.

John Patterson will get the start for Washington, facing the Mets for the 12th time in his career. He is 1-2 with a 4.92 ERA against them. Paterson had a great Spring Training. He developed a changeup and plans to use it only against left-handed hitters.