Johnson said today that he’s been informed that Gonzalez will be in line to pitch the title game, if Team USA does indeed get that far.
Gonzalez would be pitching on six days’ rest, two more than pitchers are used to, but Johnson likes the way Team USA manager Joe Torre has things lined up, saying that if Japan is the other team in the WBC final, it would help having Gonzalez go against their left-handed-heavy lineup.
“Having a good left-hander to go possibly against them in the final game, that’s perfect,” Johnson said.
Following last night’s outing in the WBC, in which he threw five scoreless innings, Gonzalez told reporters in Miami that he was better able to handle the noise and intense environment than he was in his two starts in the National League Division Series.
Gonzalez walked seven in five one-run innings in Game 1 of the NLDS, and then allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in five innings in Game 5.
Johnson said that pitching in the WBC should give both Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler, who is also pitching for Team USA, valuable experience on the big stage.
“Anytime you get to pitch on an international level like this one, which has grown into a great event, it’s a great experience,” Johnson said. “No. 1, there’s a lot of pressure on you just representing your country. And then double that with (Gonzalez) pitching in his home town. So I think any experience like this is nothing but great.
“It was great for Detwiler, it was great for Gio. And hopefully they’ll bring home a championship.”
Johnson said that the Nationals will likely make cuts in the next day or two, once today’s split-squad games are done with. The Nats will aim to get down to 19 or 20 position players in an effort to make sure everyone is getting enough playing time in the coming weeks.
The Nationals currently have 26 position players in big league camp, although they only physically have 25 here, with Roger Bernadina still participating in the WBC with the Netherlands.
Johnson said that Nathan Karns has been cleared by doctors to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, his first time throwing since going just 2/3 of an inning and allowing seven runs (one earned) on March 8.
Karns has been battling some right leg tightness in his last two outings, but doctors have examined an MRI and X-ray of Karns’ leg and determined that the Nats’ 2012 minor league Pitcher of the Year is good to get back on a mound and start throwing.
Had Karns been cleared to throw today, he would have been a candidate to take the Nationals’ start on March 17, Johnson said. That’s no longer a possibility, however.
Johnson said that Christian Garcia (torn tendon in right wrist/forearm) will probably go up to Baltimore sometime soon to see a specialist, who will determine whether the right-hander can start throwing again. Garcia has been shut down since Feb. 20.
“He feels real good, he doesn’t feel any discomfort in that area, but I think we have a wrist/arm specialist that he’ll probably have to be examined by before we let him resume throwing,” Johnson said.
Here are the lineups for today’s game in Viera, with Ross Ohlendorf starting the other game in Kissimmee against the Astros:
For the Nats
CF Denard Span
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
DH Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
2B Danny Espinosa
C Wilson Ramos
3B Chad Tracy
P Jordan Zimmermann
For the Mets
CF Colin Cowgill
3B Justin Turner
1B Ike Davis
RF Marlon Byrd
LF Lucas Duda
C Travis d’Arnaud
SS Omar Quintanilla
2B Brian Bixler
P Matt Harvey