Johnson talks Strasburg and Mattheus, says Zimmerman will DH Sunday

VIERA, Fla. - After six games, the Nationals' spring record looks more like one a hockey team would see next to its name in the standings: 1-3-2.

That's now two ties in the last five games, something Nats manager Davey Johnson isn't a fan of.

"Awful," Johnson said with a laugh. "But at least we got 10 innings in and more guys got at-bats. (Ryan) Mattheus was outstanding, (Stephen) Strasburg outstanding."

It was a bit surprising to see Mattheus trot out of the dugout to work the top of the 10th inning, given that he had just worked the ninth inning and it's just Feb. 28.

Mattheus set down the Mets in order in the ninth and then struck out two in a 1-2-3 10th.

"He'd threw I think seven pitches the first inning," Johnson said. "I don't have a problem ... he's a multi-inning guy for me anyway. But it's early. Fifteen pitches is a good outing."

Strasburg threw 52 pitches in his second start of spring, allowing one run on three hits. The Nationals' right-hander struck out six and showed more of his offspeed stuff today than his first time out.

"His changeup was outstanding," Johnson said. "Always is. He got the ball down. It was up a bit early, that's when he got hurt. But he was good."

Danny Espinosa went 1-for-2 with a double while hitting left-handed, Ian Desmond had a hard-hit base hit, Denard Span reached base both times he came to the plate and stole two bases, Tyler Moore had two hits, and Anthony Rendon stayed hot, doubling and driving in two runs.

"Yeah, he looks good," Johnson said of Rendon. "I like what I saw out of Espinosa. He's swinging the bat better from the left side. His approach is good. He's in a good frame of mind. Desi's kind of locked in early, that's where he left off last year. Got some of my guys in there.

"I like where (Span's) at. He's been really great. Heck of a player. He'll get a couple days off and the troops will be back in there."

Johnson announced that Ryan Zimmerman is scheduled to make his spring debut Sunday when the Nationals host the Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium. Zimmerman, who is working back from offseason shoulder surgery, will serve as the Nats' designated hitter.

Wilson Ramos will start DHing sometime in the near future, as well, but the Nationals catcher will need to get cleared by team doctors before he can test his surgically repaired right knee in game action.

"He's passed all the tests so far but he's got a couple doctors to get by," Johnson said. "Then he'll start DHing, just like Zim."

Johnson also cleared up some confusion regarding Henry Rodriguez's schedule. Rodriguez had been scheduled to throw live batting practice today, but that got pushed back and the righty merely threw a bullpen session.

Rodriguez, who has battled biceps tightness this spring, will throw one more bullpen session, then will face hitters in live batting practice. After that, he's expected to be ready to enter a Grapefruit League game, which should be sometime next week.

"They want him to throw another 'pen because he hasn't thrown any breaking balls," Johnson said. "I was mistaken, I thought he was throwing live. But he's going to get a 'pen.

"He's going to throw a bullpen, then one day off then live. And that should get us to next week."

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