Notes: Zimmerman struggling in field

Notes: Zimmerman struggling in the field

LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Nationals general manager Jim Bowden isn't concerned about Ryan Zimmerman's defense at third base, manager Frank Robinson sure is. Zimmerman made two more errors against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon to bring his spring total to six.

Zimmerman, who has drawn comparisons to Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Scott Rolen defensively, made errors in the sixth and eighth innings, but neither hurt the Nationals in the long run.

"I'm concerned about it, because this is his strong suit," Robinson said. "It's something we felt we didn't have to worry about. I'm not to the point to where I go and try to get into his head. I don't want to start things out there. I want him to react. It's getting where it gets your attention. We'll see."

Zimmerman, 21, acknowledged that he should have made the plays on Saturday, but he didn't seem that concerned about his defensive lapses. He said Spring Training is wearing on him and that he will be ready to make plays when the season starts.

"I don't like to complain about it, but [Spring Training] is a little monotonous," Zimmerman said. "It's just the same thing every day. The games and the atmosphere are not as intense. ... You lose concentration for a play more than if you are playing at Shea Stadium.

"There's nothing wrong with Spring Training. It gets you ready, but at a certain point, you are ready to play the ones that count."

Zimmerman isn't having any problems with the bat, as he is hitting .311 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

Injury report: First baseman Nick Johnson was spotted wearing an ice wrap on his right knee on Saturday morning. He said the knee feels a little tight after running the bases on Friday night against the Braves. Johnson said the injury is not serious.

Johnson hurt the knee in the top of the fourth inning when Zimmerman doubled to left-center field. It looked like Johnson was going to score all the way from first base. But after Johnson rounded third base, third-base coach Tony Beasley put the stop sign on Johnson at the last minute. Johnson quickly put on the breaks and felt pain in the knee.

Johnson played against the Tigers on Saturday and went 0-for-3.

Taking time off: Robinson decided to give outfielder Alfonso Soriano the day off on Saturday in order to spend time with his family. The skipper pointed out that Soriano needed a break because of what he went through this week.

On Monday, Soriano refused to make the switch from second base to left field against the Dodgers, and the Nationals threatened to put him on the disqualified list, which meant that he would have lost his $10 million salary as well as Major League service time.

Two days later, after much hoopla, Soriano decided to play the outfield against the Cardinals. He had played three straight games prior to Saturday's action.

"You have to play some other people. They have to get sharp and we have to see what they can do," Robinson said. "Also, let's give [Soriano] a little break. He has been under tremendous pressure. After that night game on Friday, I figured I would give him the day off."

Soriano is expected to play against the Astros on Sunday.

Eye of the beholder: Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. didn't have his best outing on Saturday, giving up four runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Tigers. He threw 70 pitches and 41 of them went for strikes. Armas had serious problems with his sinker -- his bread-and-butter pitch.

On the other hand, pitching coach Randy St. Claire didn't seem all that concerned that Armas didn't have a quality start. He said his shoulder problems are thing of the past.

"He threw too many pitches, but I saw some good stuff from him," St. Claire said. "He had life on his fastball and his breaking ball had some depth to it. He didn't command it real good in the strike zone, but he looks good. He looks the best I've seen in a couple of years."

Around the horn: The rotation is set with Livan Hernandez, John Patterson, Pedro Astacio, Ramon Ortiz and Armas. .... Catcher Alberto Castillo made a throwing error in the fourth inning while trying to prevent Brandon Inge from stealing a base. ... Jon Rauch pitched two shutout innings against the Tigers. ... Outfielder Jose Guillen was given the day off under doctor's orders. The team wants him to give his left wrist, which has been bothering him for several weeks, a break. There is nothing wrong with the wrist, but Guillen had played four straight games prior to Saturday.

Quotable: "I was just talking to [bench coach] Eddie Rodriguez today. I said, 'I never left Spring Training when I didn't have one or two hot players.' We don't have anybody in the lineup that's hot. They are not swinging the bat well. That's kind of a mystery. Every time we look on the board, we have four or five hits. ... It's a great explosion." -- Robinson on the Nationals' offense -- the team is hitting just .249 this spring

Coming up: The Nationals return to Space Coast Stadium to face the Astros on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 ET. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs this spring, with the Astros having won the first two games. Patterson will get the start for Washington, while Brandon Backe gets the nod for Houston.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.