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Gio works four, but Nats-Cardinals canceled

Sunday - 3/11/2012, 6:58am  ET

Craig Heist,

JUPITER, Fla. What started out as a partly sunny day with a game time temperature of 76 degrees, turned into a wet, waterlogged event at Roger Dean Stadium as the game between the Nationals and Cardinals was canceled after four innings with the Nats leading 1-0.

Gio Gonzalez made his second start of the spring and was able to get his four innings or work in, allowing one two hits while striking out one. He threw 51 pitches, 36 for strikes.

"There were a couple of things I wanted to work on," Gonzalez said. "I was glad that Wilson [Ramos] did a great job of changing it up, working on that fastball, curveball, change-up, all three of them and obviously, let my defense do the talking so we did a great job today."

Gonzalez gave up a two out single to Matt Holliday in the first and a two out single to Jon Jay in the second. After Jay stole second, Daniel Descalso lined a pitch right back at Gonzalez who leaded back, stuck his glove up and caught the ball.

"I closed my eyes," he said laughing. "I guess there was a magnet in my hand. That ball came right at my glove and I don't know how I caught it. It was instincts. I guess I got cat-like instincts."

The rain started to fall in the third inning and sent fans scattering for cover. There were two outs in the fourth with the rain getting much harder when Gonzalez got the last out of the inning on a ground ball to shortstop by Yadier Molina.

"It was getting tough. It was almost like I was telling Molina, 'here is a fastball, hit it, please.' Let's get out of this inning."

"I'm drenched over here. You know, that's a good hitting ball club over there so even messing around like that, you can wind up putting one out, over the fence and I didn't want to do that. So, I tried to keep the ball down and away and it was fun watching the offense and defense come to life."

The game won't count in the spring stats because it did not go the required five innings for it to be a complete game but from the first start against the Braves to this one, Gonzalez says he is making progress but needs to do more to be where he wants to be.

"We are moving forward. There are a lot of positive things I can take from today and a couple of negatives things. I definitely want to work on my timing, composure, but again, this is spring training and this is where you have to get this stuff out of the way now and from there, we just keep moving forward." Counting the days on the calendar, it certainly appears Gonzalez is on schedule to be the Nationals opening day starter on April 5 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

How would that make him feel?

"That's tough," Gonzalez said. "I think everyone has earned their stripes to be up there at the top of the rotation. Like I said, give me the ball and I'm ready to go, anywhere in that rotation I want to pitch. I don't look that far ahead. I just take it one step at a time. You know, Stras is a great pitcher, Zimmermann, even Edwin. These guys all have a shot, Chien-Ming and John. Like I said, I like to just stay under the radar and keep moving forward."

Walking wounded

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper appears to be a few days away from returning to the field.

Harper was a late scratch from the lineup Thursday against the Astros with a strained left calf muscle. Harper has been hitting in the cage but hasn't run and manager Davey Johnson is going to be cautious getting him back in the lineup.

"Probably not because I haven't seen him go through a full drill," Johnson said. "As you guys know, I like to see him go through a full workout and then usually give him another day, so we'll see. It's probably not his schedule. It's on his schedule to be in the lineup."

When it comes to left fielder Michael Morse who is dealing with a pulled lat muscle on the right side, Johnson feels he has reason to be more concerned.

"Mikey Mo had a couple more cortisone shots in his shoulder," he said. "He said he wanted to start D-Hing or something but I'll see how he is. He's probably going to be real sore today because he had that done yesterday, so we'll see how he's going."

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