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G-oh, Nats beat the Braves

Tuesday - 3/6/2012, 7:55pm  ET

giogonzalez2.jpg
Gio Gonzalez smiles while making his first start for the Washington Nationals during a spring training baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, March 6, 2012, in Kissimmee, Fla. The Nationals won 5-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Craig Heist, wtop.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Gio Gonzalez pitched three scoreless innings in his first start of the spring while Jayson Werth and Mark DeRosa each homered as the Nationals won their second straight Grapefruit League game beating the Braves 5-2.

Gonzalez allowed just one hit during his stint while walking one and striking out two. He faced 11 batters and was happy with his effort.

"My adrenaline was kicking, I felt good and my arm felt live," Gonzalez said. "But I definitely have stuff I want to work on. I still want to get some breaking balls for strikes, still want to throw some change-ups. Again, this is the first outing for me we have more to go."

Gonzalez was making his first start in a Nats uniform, albeit a spring start, after the trade that brought him to DC from Oakland in exchange for pitching prospects Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock and A.J, Cole along with catching prospect Derrick Norris. There were some nerves but he tired to stick to the same plan he has had in previous first time spring outings.

"With Oakland I did the same thing," he said. "I want to go out there and compete every time I get the ball. I feel like I'm still fighting for a job in this rotation. There are plenty of live arms here and I just want to keep up with them. That's all I want to do and I have had that mind set everywhere I go."

Gonzalez looked every bit the same guy who over the last two seasons has won 31 games and pitched a total of 402.2 innings. He was throwing 91-93 mph, but also topped out at 95 at one point and it had him questioning the accuracy of the radar gun.

"I want to come out of the chute fast and show a little life on the fastball and see if I'm throwing good," he said. "I know a couple of days ago I was feeling like my velocity wasn't there and I wasn't feeling it too much, but if the gun says what it says, I guess I'm trying to play tricks on my own."

"I thought Gio looked great," said Nats manager Davey Johnson. He didn't look very rusty to me. He threw some great curve balls and it was fun seeing him. I got one more guy to see and I'll feel like we're whole."

That guy is right-hander Jordan Zimmermann who sees his first action of the spring on Wednesday at home against the Cardinals.

Morse scratched

Nationals left-fielder Michael Morse was scratched from the lineup about an hour before the game with a right lat strain.

Morse told reporters in the clubhouse, "My back felt kind of tight. The other day, I was DH'ing and I didn't have to do any kind of throwing, so the day off I took that day and yesterday wasn't a game. So I threw a little bit. It still felt kind of tight. Today, just warming up, it felt kind of tight. There is no reason to push it this early. It's something that I need a little break, a little rest, probably a little overworked or something."

Davey Johnson moved Chad Tracy from the seventh position in the order up to the clean-up spot, while moving Brett Carroll from right field to left field and giving rookie Bryce Harper another start in right.

Speaking of Tracy, the Nationals designated hitter doubled home two runs in the third inning off Eric O'Flaherty to give the Washington a 3-0 lead.

Tracy is in a battle with the likes of Carroll, DeRosa, Jason Michaels and Xavier Paul trying to win a utility role and after a 1-for-7 to start the spring, today may have been a good first step.

"It always feels good," Tracy said. "It doesn't matter whether it's Little League or Spring Training, to square a ball up for me especially off a lefty, first at bat of the spring off a lefty; it's a confidence booster for sure."

LaRoche needs one more day

Manager Davey Johnson said before today's game that first baseman Adam LaRoche will not start the game on Wednesday against the Cardinals in Viera as originally planned. LaRoche has been recovering from the shoulder injury which kept him out most of last year and a sprained ankle this spring.

"You know, when they have been down, I like to see them go through a workout and then go," Johnson said. "It's a long spring. I'm not worried about him not having enough playing time.

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