VIERA, Fla. - Today should have been Chien-Ming Wang’s day to throw a bullpen. Instead, the right-hander got an extra day of rest, a move Nationals manager Davey Johnson said would be repeated early in camp to allow Wang to build up his strength and stamina.
“These guys have been around for a little bit, they know what they need to do to get that prepared. ... Since (Wang is) on a little different rest period, I will ... probably have him throw a simulated game for his first start here, or a game here controlled, to let him not feel like he’s thrown right under the bus right out of the jump chute,” Johnson said.
Wang threw his first bullpen of the spring Tuesday and said that he had no recurrence of the shoulder stiffness that he reported in throwing drills before camp opened.
“I feel great,” he said. “(Yesterday), I feel normal, no problems.”
Wang will throw Friday, Johnson said, along with right-handed reliever Henry Rodriguez, a late arrival to camp after dealing with a personal issue in his native Venezuela.
Though the Nationals are taking a cautious route with Wang, and allowing the veteran to establish his own pace, they will eventually use the same schedule with most of their starting pitchers. Johnson isn’t worried about not getting his rotation candidates enough work, since he’ll also have them throwing live batting practice in a few days. Members of the bullpen will eventually settle into a routine of pitching one day and then a day of rest, a schedule that will carry over into exhibition games.
Johnson was impressed with the curveballs he saw from left-hander Gio Gonzalez during Thursday’s bullpen sessions. They weren’t allowed to throw the pitch in their first trip to the mound this spring - Johnson prefers his pitchers work on fastballs and changeups in their initial bullpen - but the manager took notice of the sharp curves he was seeing. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg also snapped off a couple of nasty curves.
“(Gonzalez) looked good. ... He did all right,” Johnson said. “He’s got a good arm, a good curveball. I told him I don’t want any snapdragons the first day you can throw them, but there were some snapdragons out there.”
Other topics addressed by the manager Thursday included the following:
* Anthony Rendon was taking ground balls at second base during Thursday’s drills, but Johnson said he wouldn’t start Rendon, the team’s first-round pick in the June draft who played mostly third base in college, at second until he could conduct a crash course with the first-year player. Johnson was a second baseman during his major league career and he wants to make sure Rendon shows the proper footwork to avoid any injuries.
* Look for second baseman Danny Espinosa to get some playing time at shortstop once the Grapefruit League games begin, but not because a full-time position switch is imminent. Johnson wants Espinosa, who came up as a shortstop before moving to second base in 2010, to get enough work at his old position so that Johnson can be comfortable using him there to spell shortstop Ian Desmond or if Desmond is hurt. Steve Lombardozzi, a candidate to break camp as a backup infielder, will play shortstop, along with second and third base. Mark DeRosa, who will fill a utility role, will play first base, second base, third base and the corner outfield spots, but isn’t targeted for shortstop duty.