STL@WSH: Zimmerman drives in Brown with a double

JUPITER, Fla. -- With the way Ryan Zimmerman has mended from his offseason shoulder surgery this spring, there's a strong chance he could make his debut at third base on Saturday in Viera, Fla., two days ahead of schedule.

"I talked to Zim yesterday -- actually he came to me -- and said, 'Yesterday I really had a great throwing day, and depending on how I throw today, I may want to push up playing to Saturday. I may want to start Saturday,'" manager Davey Johnson said.

Zimmerman was originally expected to play his first game at third on Monday as Grapefruit League clubs began playing without the designated hitter. He's been utilizing that role, hitting .500 (11-for-22) with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs. He's been throwing, but the next and final step is to play the field in a game.

"He looks great," Johnson said. "I'm not worried about him at all. And there's still plenty of time. He's right on schedule. His timing is great. That's what I was more concerned about. I think he's got 22 at-bats, so he needs 28 more. He likes 50."

Since Zimmerman would no longer be occupying the designated hitter spot in that case, Johnson said there's a good chance Stephen Strasburg would be the first Nats pitcher to hit for himself on Saturday.

Strasburg is known to enjoy batting and be proficient at it, hitting .277 with a homer and seven RBIs last season.

"We're at the point now where we're starting to look like a National League club and I let the pitchers hit," Johnson said. "The main thing was getting Zim enough AB's."

Haren not concerned after bumpy outing

Outlook: Haren looks to benefit from a switch to NL

JUPITER, Fla. -- Dan Haren didn't mince words when describing his outing Friday -- and they weren't G-rated, either -- but as ugly as the start may have been, the right-hander didn't come out of it with much concern.

Haren was "lit up" against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium, with almost all of the damage coming in a four-run first inning. He gave up five runs on six hits (two home runs) and two walks on the day.

"I had slop out there. It was embarrassing," Haren said. "But I mean, it's just a bump in the road. I've thrown the ball well. My velocity's been fine all spring, it's just one of those days. I just didn't have anything out there. Just trying to battle through it."

Haren didn't know if it was dead-arm or the drive from Viera, Fla., to Jupiter, but he said the ball felt heavy and at times his arm was slow behind his delivery.

"I thought early in the game, he was a little out of sorts," manager Davey Johnson said. "Looked like he was kind of rushing or something. He was leaving his arm back there. He got it together in the second inning and I thought he threw the ball a lot better, made his pitches and got his work in."

Haren pointed out that he's never been good in Spring Training -- his career ERA in those starts is 4.40 -- and Johnson said it's something most starting pitchers encounter at some point during spring.

The right-hander emphasized that he's not feeling any physical discomfort, other than saying his body felt a little "achy" entering the game.

After the four-run first, he faced five hitters in the scoreless second and retired the side in order in the third. Pete Kozma walked to lead off the fourth, advanced from first to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly for St. Louis' fifth run. Haren pitched a scoreless fifth.

"When you're not feeling that good that day, I think the smartest thing to do is kind of back off," he said. "I think the natural thing to do is to add more and just try and get more out of yourself, and when that happens, the ball tends to not go where you want it to go, which was the case in the beginning. And then as the game went along, I didn't have much out there, but I just backed off and focused more on location."

Johnson confident Detwiler, Gio in good hands

PUR@USA: Gio shuts out Puerto Rico over five innings

JUPITER, Fla. -- With uncertainty looming for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic -- both tonight in an elimination game against Puerto Rico, and in the coming days with the possibility to advance to the semifinals in San Francisco -- Davey Johnson remains confident that Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez are in good hands and will return to Viero without having been thrown off course.

Detwiler's day to pitch was technically Thursday, and it's unclear whether he will piggy-back after Ryan Vogelsong starts for Team USA on Friday night. Vogelsong and Detwiler each threw four innings on March 9 against Italy, with Detwiler recording the save.

Gonzalez started in America's 7-1 win against Puerto Rico on Tuesday and is expected to throw in the championship game on March 19 should the U.S. advance. That, too, would be on extra rest.

Johnson said pitching coach Steve McCatty -- whom he has nicknamed "Mother Hen" by virtue of McCatty's care for his starters during this unconventional period of scheduling -- has been mulling it all over, trying to piece together a time frame.

"Everything can change," Johnson said. "I said, 'McCatty, don't even go with that pencil on your days, because we don't know what they'll end up doing, when they'll end up throwing.'"

The Nationals have been using Chris Young and Ross Ohlendorf as rotation placeholders while Gonzalez and Detwiler have been away. Ryan Perry is scheduled to start Sunday against the Tigers, but if the U.S. loses on Friday night, Gonzalez could return and pitch in his regular spot.

"I'm sure that between [Marcel Lachemann and Greg Maddux], their throwing program is just like what they'd be doing here, and they'll be having plenty of down work under the tutelage of two great pitching coaches," Johnson said. "I'm not concerned at all about that. And I'm sure both of them are learning from some guys that know a lot about pitching. I'm sure it's a great experience, and whatever work schedule they're on, I'm not the least bit worried about it.

"Now, Mother Hen, she's -- the eraser's out, and he's got 4-5 pages, but he doesn't have all the information to put it together, and he probably won't until after Sunday."

Garcia to see specialist for wrist strain

Top Prospects: Christian Garcia, RHP, Nationals

JUPITER, Fla. -- The plan remains for reliever Christian Garcia to see a specialist on Sunday for his right wrist/forearm strain, and manager Davey Johnson reaffirmed that there is "no possibility" Garcia will be in the Nationals' bullpen Opening Day.

Johnson is hoping still to stretch Garcia out to a starter's program, and with the time he's missed this spring, it seems entirely unlikely that Garcia would start the year in the big leagues.

"I am [planning to stretch him out], but we'll probably keep him here once he starts throwing and see where he's at," Johnson said.

So Garcia will see a specialist in Baltimore on Sunday, with hopes that he'll be cleared to throw thereafter. He hasn't even been playing catch for almost a month now, so it will be quite some time before the right-hander has a chance to join the Nats.

"He'll need to keep playing catch every day, and he's been out for over a month, so it's like starting all over," Johnson said. "He's a valuable commodity and we're just focused on a regular pace to get him ready."