Notes: Williams anxious to prove

Notes: Williams anxious to prove himself

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Nationals manager Manny Acta said Friday that it's critical for Jerome Williams to show that he belongs in the starting rotation. Thus far, Williams has been shaky in his two starts.

In his first start against the Braves on March 5, Williams became rattled and had a hard time getting hitters out after shortstop D'Angelo Jimenez made an error in the second inning. Williams had a hard time getting hitters out after that.

In his next outing, Williams had a difficult time throwing first-pitch strikes and was in trouble for most of the time he was on the mound against the Mets on Saturday. In fact, Acta went so far as to say that the Nationals' defense saved Williams from enduring a rough outing.

Williams was supposed to try and redeem himself Friday afternoon against the Indians, but the game was cancellled because of rain. Williams will get a chance to start against the Mets on Saturday afternoon.

"We are running out of time," Acta said. "I think it's time for Jerome to show if he wants to stay in this battle."

Williams said he was disappointed that he couldn't prove himself on Friday. Williams realizes there is a sense of urgency to show the team what he could do on the mound. He feels he has fixed his problems.

"I was ready to pitch. I wanted to go out there and throw," Williams said. "I want to throw the ball and throw strikes. I need to get first-pitch strikes, get guys out and be aggressive. I'm trying to show people I belong here. Now, I have to sit back and wait."

What the rainout means: Williams is not the only pitcher who will be pushed back. Joel Hanrahan was scheduled to start against the Mets, but he will now pitch in relief against the Marlins on Sunday.

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire said that several of the relief pitchers will now throw in the Minor League intrasqaud games.

The only pitcher who will not be pushed back is ace John Patterson, who will throw against the Marlins on Sunday.

Shortstop Cristian Guzman and second baseman Felipe Lopez were supposed to have the day off on Saturday, but Friday's rainout has forced them to play against the Mets. It will mark the first time the two will work a double-play combination this spring. Guzman has spent most of the spring recovering from shoulder tendinitis.

On Wednesday, Guzman played five innings on defense against the Cardinals. Due to the rainout, Guzman will play more than that against the Mets, said Acta.

"We need to see Guzman on the field," Acta said. "He is making the trip tomorrow to play with Felipe."

A pleasant dilemma: Outfielder/infielder Kory Casto continues to show that he belongs in the big leagues. In nine Grapefruit League games, he is 7-for-17 (.412) with six walks and a .565 on-base percentage.

But there is a good possibility that he may not be on the Opening Day roster because of the numbers game. Outfielders Ryan Church, Chris Snelling and Alex Escobar are out of options and third base belongs to Ryan Zimmerman for years to come.

The team asked Casto to take ground balls at first base, and he was seen working hard at the position, but three players are ahead of him. Larry Broadway and Travis Lee have seen the most action at first base, but the competition is expected to intensify early next week when Dmitri Young returns to Major League camp.

"We have two weeks to go," Acta said. "A lot can happen. Casto has shown that he can hit. We know that. He is very versatile. He can play different positions. We'll see."

Acta already announced that Casto will play every day, either in the big leagues or the Minors. Casto will not come off the bench in the Majors.

Did you know? Snelling leads the Nationals in RBIs with six.

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Coming up: The Nationals travel to Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Saturday to face the Mets at 1:10 p.m. ET for the third time this season. Washington has won the first two games of the series.

Williams will get the nod, while New York right-hander Chan Ho Park will start for the Mets.

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