Johnson impressed with Haren, likes Rodriguez’s progress

VIERA, Fla. - Dan Haren’s first mound session as a member of the Nationals was a strong one.

Haren, signed to a one-year, $13 million deal this offseason, stood between fellow right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard this morning, and the 32-year-old toed the rubber and fired pitches into the glove of catcher Jhonatan Solano.

It was the first time Haren has thrown in front of manager Davey Johnson, and Johnson liked what he saw.

“I was impressed with Dan Haren,” Johnson said. “He threw the ball very well. I told him don’t peak too early. His stuff was really good, got great command.

“All the guys threw pretty good. I was impressed, but Haren stood out and Zim stood out.”

Henry Rodriguez isn’t throwing off a mound just yet, as he’s still working his way back from elbow surgery and dealing with a little forearm/bicep tenderness. But Rodriguez has still been throwing the heck out of the ball during flat-ground warm-up sessions.

Rodriguez threw with non-roster invitee Ross Ohlendorf this morning. Apparently Ohlendorf didn’t have enough of a scouting report on the flame-throwing Rodriguez to know he should find someone else to toss with.

“He burned (Ohlendorf’s) glove hand off,” Johnson joked. “I said ‘Man, why’d you pick him?’ He said it was a bad choice. (Rodriguez) was supposed to have a little tight bicep but he was throwing the heck out of the ball on the flats. He looks awfully good. I don’t think that, he was throwing off the flat about 90 miles an hour.”

The Nats will take things slow with Rodriguez, but Johnson said he wouldn’t be surprised if Rodriguez is available soon after Grapefruit League games get underway.

I’ve yet to spend time around Micah Owings, the former Diamondbacks pitcher- turned-first baseman, but the 6-foot-5 Owings is here in camp ready to show what he can do. A career .283 hitter in 203 big league at-bats, Owings signed a minor league deal with the Nats last week.

Interestingly enough, Johnson says he thinks that Owings had a chance to sign elsewhere and continue to pitch, but instead, he opted to make the transition to being a position player.

“Today’s the first time I saw him,” Johnson said. “Big guy. I know he can swing the bat. I know this is something he wants to do. We’re going to give him the opportunity to see what he can do. We’re a little bit jammed up at first and third, it’s a little concern of mine. But we have a long spring and we’ve got the best hitting instructor in baseball.

“I’m sure he’ll enjoy working with Rick (Eckstein) and spending time on just his hitting. From the word I got from (general manager Mike Rizzo), he can play the outfield and first. But I’ll be judging his ineptitude at both those places this spring. I’m like Frank Howard. I like those hairy-chested guys.”

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