Johnson on Zimmerman, Strasburg, Rodriguez, Hoyas

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Davey Johnson has a vested interest in keeping third baseman Ryan Zimmerman around long-term, so he’s among those who want to see the Nationals and Zimmerman agree on a long-term contract extension.

“I think it’s a great idea. I hope that they come together and get it done,” Johnson said. “He’s the franchise player. He’s the best player, your three-hole hitter, leader of the infield - all of the above. ... I think he wants to stay here, I think everybody wants him to stay here.”

Zimmerman has established Saturday’s start of full-squad workouts as his deadline for working out an extension to his current deal a five-year, $45 million contract that runs through 2013. Apprised that the start of Saturday’s workout would invoke Zimmerman’s deadline for negotiations, Johnson came up with an innovative plan that could buy the club some more time to talk.

“Tomorrow’s still alive? Until 10 o’clock? Maybe I’ll postpone the workout,” Johnson said.

* During Stephen Strasburg’s first full season since Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery, Johnson will carefully watch to make sure the team’s prized right-hander isn’t overthrowing the ball. Johnson has already said that Strasburg will be limited to 150-160 innings in 2012, and he seems determined to make sure they’re innings pitched correctly.

“(Strasburg) struck people out when I had him in the Olympics,” Johnson said, “but he located with good stuff. It wasn’t 98, 100 (mph) coming up top; it was mid-90s, great movement and great location. When I saw him striking out 14 (in his major league debut in 2010), he really was overthrowing. Everybody was eating it up, but that worried me. I can’t savor that. In my mind, I thought the guy was pushing the envelope.”

* Right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez, the last pitcher to report to camp, will throw a bullpen session Sunday. Rodriguez’s arrival was delayed because the Nationals allowed him to take care of a personal issue in his native Venezuela.

Last spring, visa issues caused Rodriguez to arrive late to camp and when he finally started throwing, he experienced problems with his right shoulder. Johnson would prefer to avoid a repeat, so he’ll start slow with Rodriguez, who is slated to be one of his set-up men in the bullpen.

Rodriguez finished last season with a 3-3 record, 3.56 ERA and two saves in 59 games. His ERA peaked at 4.67 on Aug. 13, but Rodriguez shaved more than a run off in his next 22 outings.

“One of that keys was that I was getting more opportunities and then as soon as the season (was over), I was getting confidence, throwing my pitches and making adjustments,” Rodriguez said.

* Johnson won’t use one of his regular starting pitchers when the Nationals host Georgetown on March 2 at Space Coast Stadium, nor will he trot out a bunch of relievers to cover the exhibition innings. He’ll probably announce the starting pitcher for that game Saturday.

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