Johnson on Haren, Soriano and Clippard (Purke sent to minor league camp)

VIERA, Fla. - Following today’s 7-1 win over the Astros, the Nationals optioned left-hander Matt Purke to low-A Hagerstown.

Purke, who is recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent last summer, will head over to minor league camp to continue his rehab. The 2011 third-round pick has been throwing bullpen sessions every Tuesday and Friday at about 50 percent effort.

“His rehab is coming along great, but he’s not going to be ready to work here, so we’re sending him over (to minor league camp) to continue,” manager Davey Johnson said. “But he’s doing great. He’ll be back pretty soon.”

Johnson said that Purke is on schedule to begin appearing in games in early May. Purke will be held at extended spring training until he’s ready for game action. The 22-year-old received a major league deal and a $2.75 million bonus when the Nationals drafted him out of TCU.

Johnson was pleased with what he saw this afternoon from starter Dan Haren, who allowed one run over three innings of work. Haren was incredibly efficient early, needing just 23 pitches to get through the first two innings, but he got a good bit of work in during a 27-pitch third inning.

“He would’ve gone four if he didn’t have trouble in that inning, but he threw the ball great,” Johnson said. “I like what I saw.”

After Zach Duke followed with three scoreless innings, Rafael Soriano came in for his spring debut. The Nats’ closer needed to wait out a lengthy bottom of the sixth before entering, as the Nats scored five runs in the frame and sent nine men to the plate.

Once he finally got to the mound, Soriano retired Justin Maxwell and then allowed a one-out single, but catcher Kurt Suzuki threw out J.D. Martinez attempting to steal. Soriano then got Robbie Grossman swinging to end the inning, capping a 12-pitch day at the office.

“He’s a character, to say the least,” Johnson said. “He knows what he needs to do to get ready. He threw the ball good. He was a little frustrated that we had all those rallies. He was ready to go. He said he was down there throwing knuckleballs to kill some time, but he’s fine. ... He knows exactly what he wants to do to get ready for the season.”

Tyler Clippard worked the eighth inning, striking out two in a 1-2-3 frame.

“He’s been working on his curveball ever since I’ve been here, and today I think he threw three out of four over the plate,” Johnson said. “So he was all grins at the end of that round. He says, ‘I don’t want to peak this early.’ But those are the first curveballs I’ve seen (from him) in three years that have been over the plate.

“(It adds) just another weapon. It’s something that they’re not used to seeing. He’s got such a good fastball and change-up. But he’s wanted to throw it ever since I’ve been here and today it looked good.”

Johnson said that Wilson Ramos will get the day off tomorrow after catching three innings today. Ramos will then serve as the Nationals’ DH on Thursday against the Astros in Kissimmee.

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