Zimmerman scorching, Brown impressing

VIERA, Fla. - We can’t count on the 80 degree weather here to cool down Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is absolutely scorching right now.

Zimmerman is on a tear to start his spring, hitting .583 with five of his seven base hits going for extra bases. The new $100 million man has two homers and three doubles in 12 at-bats.

That hot stretch continued yesterday, as Zimmerman went 2-for-3 with a homer and a double in the Nats’ 8-4 win over the Cardinals.

You love to see the strong start to spring, but how ‘bout we save some of those knocks for the games that matter, huh, Ryan?

We know all about the talent that infielder Anthony Rendon and left-hander Matt Purke will bring to the Nats’ minor league system, but one other guy that was among Washington’s first round of cuts yesterday has caught the eye of manager Davey Johnson.

That guy? Outfielder Corey Brown.

Brown, who was acquired from Oakland in the Josh Willingham trade, battled health issues and struggled last year, but came into camp looking healthy and on top of his game.

He went 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer and three RBIs in eight Grapefruit League games, and also showed flashes of strong defensive play.

Johnson told reporters after yesterday’s game that Brown was “the guy that probably impressed me the most from what I saw last year”. The Nats’ skipper added that third base coach Bo Porter - who also coaches the outfielders - jokingly was asking if the team could keep Brown around big league camp a bit longer, but the plan now is for the 26-year-old outfielder to get a lot of at-bats over in minor league camp and gear up for the season.

“If he keeps doing the things I think he’s capable of doing right on into the season,” Johnson said, “we don’t have to look for a center fielder.”

Just as a reminder, tonight’s 6:05 p.m. game against the Tigers can be seen live on MASN. The clubhouse opens at around 2 p.m., and I’ll be back with today’s lineups and pregame notes leading up to tonight’s game.

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