Nats Blog: Johnson names starters for first spring games

Craig Heist,

Viera, Fla. – As Nationals manager Davey Johnson continued to watch the progression of his pitching staff during the early part of spring training; he has been impressed overall by what he has seen.

Johnson even laid out his plans for who will start the first three games of the Grapefruit League season which begins Saturday in Port St. Lucie against the New York Mets.

“There is no bullpen tomorrow (Tuesday),” Johnson said.

“Then they are throwing to the hitters with batting practice and if everyone comes through that alright, I’ve got Stras (Stephen Strasburg) pitching the first game on the road and then Jordan Zimmermann pitching the first home game here and then Gio (Gonzalez).”

Gonzalez is scheduled to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA and he will get three games in before heading to Miami to join the team.

“Gio is set to pitch on the 25th,” Johnson said.

“He will then pitch on the second and then the seventh before heading to Miami and he’ll pitch on the 12th,” he said.

As to who will fill in for Gonzalez while he is pitching in the classic, Johnson was non-committal.

“There are several candidates. I’d like to have the luxury of having about a couple two or three outings by people before I start slotting someone in to take that game,” he said.

Soriano throws for first time after being delayed getting into camp

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano threw his first bullpen session of the spring and it didn’t seem as though the missed time hurt him.

“I thought Soriano looked good,” said skipper Davey Johnson.

“I thought he threw the ball good. He was doing a lot of long-tossing and we were having conversations about what he likes to do during the spring but I liked the way he was throwing,” he said.

Johnson said he would like Soriano not to try and do too much too soon.

“He knows what he needs to do and he probably won’t work the first week, he’ll take it easy. In talking to him, he doesn’t need but a certain number of innings; I mean no more than 8-10.”

Catcher Kurt Suzuki was behind the plate for Soriano’s bullpen and was impressed with what he saw and how smooth Soriano looked for not getting into camp until Saturday.

“He was great and he was just working on stuff, nothing special,” Suzuki said.

“He was just getting himself ready, throwing some sliders, throwing the ball where he wanted to. That’s the thing, I really didn’t have to move my glove much and that’s when you really know a guy has been doing it for a long time when he come and in his first bullpen, fire away and hit every spot,” Suzuki said.

Suzuki was obtained in a trade with the Oakland Athletics on August 3 last season and he spent the last two months of the season trying to learn the Nats’ pitching staff, something that is still a work in progress.

“It’s always a progression,” he said.

“I feel like I have a lot more to go. It’s the fun part because you build that relationship and that’s the fun part. You learn a lot more and you get more comfortable as you go. Once you get to that point, everything that kind of flows and you get that rhythm and everything is great.”

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