Zimmerman making first start at third base

VIERA, Fla. - At the risk of sounding like one of those kitschy postcards, greetings from Space Coast Stadium. While Dan Kolko takes some well-deserved time off over the next week, I’ll be carrying you through all the important Nationals news. Check back on MASNsports.com frequently and give me a follow at @masnPete on Twitter.

First things first: The lineup for tonight’s 6:05 p.m. game against the Astros - which will be broadcast on MASN HD, so make sure to tune in to Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo for the call - looks quite similar to what the Nats’ opening day lineup could look like come April 1.

Ryan Zimmerman, who had been restricted to designated hitter duty to bring his surgically repaired right shoulder along slowly, is making his first start of the Grapefruit League schedule at third base.

Manager Davey Johnson said Zimmerman would probably play three or four innings - enough time to “knock the dust off him.”

“I’m not worried about him - I put him in the lineup,” Johnson said. “His timing’s pretty good, he’s hitting the ball well. That was my main concern, why I was DHing him all these at-bats. He feels good. ... That’s the main thing.”

How good is Zimmerman’s timing so far? He’s hitting .500 (11-for-22) with three doubles, a homer and four RBIs.

Here are your lineups for tonight’s game:

For the Astros:

LF - Trevor Crowe
3B - Brett Wallace
1B - Carlos Pena
RF - Fernando Martinez
CF - Rick Ankiel
C - Carlos Corporan
SS - Marwin Gonzalez
2B - Jake Elmore
P - Lucas Harrell

For the Nationals:

CF - Denard Span
RF - Jayson Werth
LF - Bryce Harper
3B - Ryan Zimmerman
1B - Adam LaRoche
SS - Ian Desmond
2B - Danny Espinosa
C - Wilson Ramos
P - Stephen Strasburg

Tonight also marks the first time this spring that a pitcher is scheduled to hit. Up until tonight, the Nationals had used the American League-style DH. It’ll be fun to see reigning National League Silver Slugger winner Strasburg wielding lumber in anger.

As I said, this Washington lineup mirrors what fans might see at Nationals Park on April 1 against the Marlins. The only difference could be at catcher, where Kurt Suzuki could get the starting nod over Ramos, who has made a speedy recovery from a season-ending knee injury sustained in May.

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