Zimmermann finds midseason form over six

Righty allows one run; Storen returns from surgery with scoreless inning

Zimmermann finds midseason form over six

VIERA, Fla -- Backing up much of the hype surrounding their pitching staff, the Nationals have continued to turn in stellar outing after stellar outing this spring. The latest came on Friday courtesy of right-hander Jordan Zimmmermann, who is on pace to be the team's No. 2 starter this season.

Zimmermann surrendered one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts in six innings during a 1-1 tie with a split Cardinals squad. Zimmermann saw his Grapefruit League ERA rise incrementally to 1.37.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Contract status last thing on Zimmermann's mind

Contract status last thing on Zimmermann's mind

VIERA, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann is enjoying one of the best springs of anyone at Nationals camp. The right-hander's latest performance came on Friday afternoon, when he limited the Cardinals' split-squad team to one run on four hits and a pair of walks while striking out four in six innings. His Grapefruit League ERA sits at 1.37 after his fifth start.

Yet Zimmermann seems prepared to enter the 2015 season pitching in the final year of his contract. He has said he doesn't want to talk about his contract once the season starts, and he reiterated that point after the Nationals' 1-1 tie with the Cardinals.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Storen passes test in return from hand surgery

Glove hand feels strong after eventful inning against Cardinals

Storen passes test in return from hand surgery

VIERA, Fla -- Nationals closer Drew Storen entered Friday's 1-1 tie with the Cardinals in the seventh inning, making his first appearance in a Grapefruit League game since he had a minor surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand.

Naturally, the first batter Storen faced, second baseman Kolten Wong, hit a grounder to first base that forced the right-hander to cover first base and test out his left hand.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zimmerman exits after diving stop at first

Williams' decision to remove Nats infielder deemed precautionary

Zimmerman exits after diving stop at first

VIERA, Fla -- Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman left Friday's 1-1 tie with the Cardinals in the third inning after making a diving stop in the first inning.

Nationals manager Matt Williams said Zimmerman "banged himself pretty good" while ranging to his left on a grounder hit by Randal Grichuk. Taking Zimmerman out of the game was strictly precautionary, according to Williams, especially since the infielder was making his third consecutive start.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rendon tries lateral jogging; Span progressing

Third baseman attempting to return by Opening Day; outfielder swings fungo

Rendon tries lateral jogging; Span progressing

VIERA, Fla -- Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon did some light jogging in right field early Friday morning, with an emphasis on lateral movement to test his sprained left knee.

Rendon, who has been shut down since March 9, feels fine while running straight ahead, but he has been having trouble when moving side to side. It is the next small step for Rendon in his rehab as he attempts to return to the Nationals' lineup in time for Opening Day.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

With sharper vision, Uggla has case to make Nats

Veteran second baseman displaying power, patience in spring audition

With sharper vision, Uggla has case to make Nats

VIERA, Fla -- One of Dan Uggla's biggest issues while struggling during the past two seasons has been his inability to put the ball in play. The strikeout totals were astonishing -- his 217 strikeouts in 188 games since the start of the 2013 season were more than his total of hits (101) and walks (88) combined.

But after correcting an issue with his eyes in the offseason, Uggla is tracking the ball better this spring. Entering Friday's game against the Cardinals, Uggla had more hits (10) and walks (7) than strikeouts (5) and was batting .323/.462/.581 overall. Yes, it is Spring Training and the sample size is small, but the Nationals are impressed with what they have seen from Uggla this month.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nationals reassign six to Triple-A Syracuse

Dykstra, Burriss, Lerud, Ka'aihue, Robinson, Delcarmen sent to Minor League camp

Nationals reassign six to Triple-A Syracuse

VIERA, Fla. -- Prior to Friday's game against the Cardinals, the Nationals announced that they had reassigned six players to Minor League camp. Those moves trimmed the spring roster to 36 players, seven of whom are non-roster invites.

Infielders Cutter Dykstra and Emmanuel Burriss, catcher Steven Lerud, outfielders Kila Ka'aihue and Derrick Robinson along with right-hander Manny Delcarmen were reassigned to Triple-A Syracuse.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harper back in lineup after missing two games

Harper back in lineup after missing two games

VIERA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper missed his second straight game on Thursday while dealing with a stomach bug.

Harper arrived at Space Coast Stadium initially on Thursday afternoon expecting to play against the Mets. After taking some light swings in the batting cages, however, he did not feel good and the Nationals sent him home.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Gio grooves on success in start against Mets

Gio grooves on success in start against Mets

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez completed his longest and best outing of the spring, but his performance was matched by Mets right-hander Matt Bowman. Both pitchers completed five scoreless innings in New York's 8-3 victory on Thursday night at Space Coast Stadium.

The Mets scored four runs in the eighth off reliever Craig Stammen, punctuated by a two-run homer from Matt den Dekker, one of three jacks for New York. The Nationals' only offense came in the sixth off reliever Jeurys Familia, who was removed with two outs in the inning after allowing three runs on four hits.

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Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nationals entertaining plenty of bench options

Nationals entertaining plenty of bench options

VIERA, Fla. -- As the Grapefruit League begins to wind down, the Nationals are starting to focus on who will fill out the final spots on their bench.

They have multiple players in camp who play similar roles at first base and in the outfield in Tyler Moore, Clint Robinson, Kila Ka'aihue and Matt Carp.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bryan Harper happy to rub elbows with Nats

Bryan Harper happy to rub elbows with Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals were practicing defensive drills prior to the start of Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Mets, when one fan noticed something unusual.

"Did Bryce Harper change his number?" he asked aloud to no one in particular after noticing a Harper jersey with the No. 33 on the back.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer able to work out of jam in dominant start

Nationals Opening Day starter strikes out nine Cardinals, including clutch K's in tricky fifth

Scherzer able to work out of jam in dominant start

JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer was dominating in a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon.

Scherzer pitched six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine. The only time he was in trouble was in the fifth inning. After Yadier Molina singled with one out and Jon Jay followed with a double, Scherzer struck out Kolten Wong and Michael Wacha to end the threat.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Knee sprain hurting Rendon's chances for opener

MCL is healing, but not fast enough; Stewart leading candidate to step in if necessary

Knee sprain hurting Rendon's chances for opener

JUPITER, Fla. -- There is a possibility that Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon may not be ready for Opening Day, according to manager Matt Williams.

Rendon is still dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, which he injured making a diving play against the Braves on March 9. Rendon had a second MRI on the knee Monday, and while the results showed improvement, they did not show enough to determine that he will be healthy for the season opener.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer piles up K's before Nationals edged late

Opening Day starter fans nine in six superb innings; Barrett loses command in relief

Scherzer piles up K's before Nationals edged late

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha and Nationals Opening Day starter Max Scherzer were engaged in a terrific pitchers' duel to start Wednesday's matchup at Roger Dean Stadium, before the Cards broke through in the eighth inning for a 1-0 victory.

Nats reliever Aaron Barrett began the inning by hitting Kolten Wong with a pitch, and pinch-runner Charlie Tilson stole second base after Wong was removed. Barrett then uncorked a wild pitch, advancing Tilson to third, and Ty Kelly drove him home with a sacrifice fly. After Barrett exited, Rafael Martin struck out Stephen Piscotty with the bases loaded to end the damage.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Zimmerman remains driven in 10th season with Nats

Veteran serves as consummate teammate a decade deep into career with Washington

Zimmerman remains driven in 10th season with Nats

VIERA, Fla. -- Ryan Zimmerman has been the face of the Washington Nationals' franchise practically since he arrived in the Major Leagues on Sept. 1, 2005. He was the team's first star in Washington and he's still a star.

Zimmerman is a homegrown legend from Virginia Beach, Va., and playing close to home hasn't put any added pressure on him. He is a clean-cut guy who never got into trouble off the field. When things go wrong with the Nats, Zimmerman is always by his locker to field questions.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stewart playing his way into valuable role

With strong spring backing him up, veteran could step in at third base if Rendon isn't ready

Stewart playing his way into valuable role

JUPITER, Fla. -- Third baseman Ian Stewart signed a Minor League contract with the Nationals last December in hopes of being one of the left-handed hitters off the bench.

But ever since Anthony Rendon went down with his left knee sprain on March 9, Stewart has played almost every day at third base and has taken advantage of the situation, hitting .323 with three home runs and four RBIs in 16 games.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Nationals equipped to survive early injury test

Boasting deep, talented roster, club not likely to have playoff hopes dashed in April or May

Nationals equipped to survive early injury test

The Washington Nationals don't have to get it right in April or even May. That's a handy reminder on a week like this one.

OK, so maybe the Nationals won't open the 2015 season with the team they'd drawn up on paper.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jim Callis

Pipeline Perspectives: Nats' system has had best five-year run

No. 1 Draft picks Strasburg, Harper are just part of Washington's homegrown success

Pipeline Perspectives: Nats' system has had best five-year run

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

Until the Expos moved from Montreal in 2005, Washington hadn't had a Major League team since the Senators bolted for Texas after the 1971 season. The Nationals did a poor imitation of a big league club in their first five seasons, averaging 93 losses and finishing last in the National League East four times.

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Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Scherzer gets Nationals' Opening Day nod

Right-hander honored with start for first time in career

Scherzer gets Nationals' Opening Day nod

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Matt Williams announced on Monday that right-hander Max Scherzer will be the team's Opening Day starter on April 6 against the Mets at Nationals Park. It will be the first Opening Day start of Scherzer's career. Washington's last three Opening Day starts have gone to right-hander Stephen Strasburg.

"There are lots of reasons [Scherzer is the Opening Day starter]," Williams said. "He is really a good pitcher. We are confident in him. All of our guys have the ability to go out and beat the other team. Max certainly has that ability as well, and we are confident in him."

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fister does part on hill, with lumber vs. Yankees

Right-hander pitches 4 1/3 innings, adds two-run single; Escobar records hit in debut

Fister does part on hill, with lumber vs. Yankees

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals scored three runs in the seventh inning off Kyle Davies to edge the Yankees, 7-6, at Space Coast Stadium on Monday afternoon. Doug Fister started the game and pitched into the fifth inning while contributing to a four-run fourth with a two-run single.

Chris Young and Brian McCann did most of the damage for New York, driving in a combined five runs. Young hit two homers, while McCann hit a two-run blast in support of rotation hopeful Bryan Mitchell, who allowed four hits and two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.

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Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Escobar notches hit, flashes leather in spring debut

Escobar notches hit, flashes leather in spring debut

VIERA, Fla. -- Yunel Escobar played his first game of the spring on Monday, and the second baseman showed that he is over his Grade 1 oblique strain in the Nationals' 7-6 victory over the Yankees.

Escobar, who batted leadoff, went 1-for-2 with an infield single in the first inning and made a great diving play in the third inning. Brett Gardner hit a ground ball to Escobar, who dove to his right to throw out Gardner, but Rob Refsnyder scored on the play.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Bell's final toll: Longtime closer elects to retire

All-Star from 2009-11 with Padres, fiery reliever bows out after 11-season career

Bell's final toll: Longtime closer elects to retire

Heath Bell turned down the stereo long enough in his 31-foot Fleetwood RV on Tuesday afternoon to take a few questions about the next chapter in his life, although he didn't take the foot off the gas pedal, as he bombed his way across the Florida Panhandle.

A day after being released by the Nationals, Bell was only a few hours into what he was expecting to be a three-day solo drive back to San Diego, where he will join his wife, Nicole, and their four children for good.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Frandsen takes part in fantasy mock draft

Frandsen takes part in fantasy mock draft

Here at MLB.com, we have plenty of fantasy baseball expertise. But no one can dispute that the Major League players whom we analyze have their own level of knowledge. Knowing this, we decided to solicit advice from them about how to build the perfect fantasy team. The result is the first ever -- that we know of -- players-only fantasy mock draft.

Ten players with an interest in fantasy baseball agreed to take part in a three-round mock draft with the help of MLB.com reporters, who relayed picks across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

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Zachary Finkelstein is a fantasy editor for MLB.com. Reporting done by Adam McCalvy, Rhett Bollinger, Alden Gonzalez, Mark Bowman, Jane Lee, Brittany Ghiroli, Steve Gilbert, Brian McTaggart and Joe Frisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Prospect Ward gets brief taste of big leagues

Prospect Ward gets brief taste of big leagues

VIERA, Fla. -- Third baseman Drew Ward, the ninth-ranked prospect in the Nationals' organization according to MLB.com, received quite the shock when he was told Sunday that he was leaving the Minor League side for a day to play with the big league team on Monday. Ward went 1-for-2 with an infield single in a 7-6 victory over the Yankees.

"It's a dream come true, that's for sure," Ward said.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats release reliever Bell among roster moves

Nats release reliever Bell among roster moves

VIERA, Fla. -- After beating the Yankees, 7-6, on Monday afternoon, the Nationals released reliever Heath Bell. According to Bell, the Nationals told him they didn't have a roster spot for him.

In seven games this spring, Bell allowed four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. He picked up the save on Monday with a perfect inning of work.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Nats tag Verlander for 3 homers, 2 by Taylor

Stewart also goes deep among 3 hits; Cole solid while stepping in for Strasburg

Nats tag Verlander for 3 homers, 2 by Taylor

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Michael Taylor, the Nationals' No. 2 prospect, hit two home runs as part of a three-homer barrage from Washington batters off Justin Verlander, building an early lead until Joey Pankake's ninth-inning homer forged a 7-7 tie with the Tigers on Sunday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Three days after the same teams battled to a scoreless tie in Viera, Fla., the two sides combined for seven homers on a summerlike day in Lakeland. Taylor's two-homer day and Ian Stewart's third homer of the spring resulted in a string of three leadoff home runs in as many innings off Verlander, who continued to work on his slider while trying to spot his fastball.

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Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Strasburg successfully tests ankle sprain in 'pen session

Nationals righty says he's feeling better, focusing on keeping swelling down

Strasburg successfully tests ankle sprain in 'pen session

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Two days after spraining his left ankle, Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg said Sunday morning he is feeling better and still trying to get the swelling down.

Strasburg even tossed a light bullpen session Sunday, throwing about 20 pitches. He will have another 'pen session before he pitches in a game, according to manager Matt Williams.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.