Johnson talks Young, Rodriguez's shaky inning, Romero's debut

KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Because he had a handful of relievers needing to get in their work, Davey Johnson limited Chris Young to just four innings in tonight's 6-4 loss to the Astros.

He liked what he saw in those four innings, though. And really, the Nationals have liked what they've seen from Young all spring.

The veteran right-hander allowed just one uneared run on two hits with a walk, a hit batter and two strikeouts. He hasn't allowed an earned run since the first inning of his start three outings ago against Houston.

Now, after Young opted out of his minor league deal with the Nats, we'll have to wait and see whether this was the last time the 33-year-old pitches in a Nats jersey.

"He threw a heck of a ballgame," Johnson said. "He's had a great spring for us. I'm sure he'll probably get a job somewhere. The ball's in his court. But he pitched very good this spring."

Henry Rodriguez followed Young to the mound, and his inning of work was similar to the ones we've seen Rodriguez deliver countless times over the last few years.

There was some good - Rodriguez retired the last three hitters he faced and struck out two, both looking.

There was some bad - Rodriguez started his inning by throwing seven straight balls, one of which was chest-high in the batter's box and nearly got past catcher Wilson Ramos to the backstop, and another nearly decapitated Astros outfielder Rick Ankiel.

"Had me worried again," Johnson said, before turning to the positives. "He threw the ball good. He was a lot better. We'll go to him again. Give him a day off and then back at it."

Asked whether there's a chance that Rodriguez opens the season on the disabled list as he continues to work back from elbow surgery and tries to get a better feel for his control, Johnson sidestepped the question.

"We're not at that point yet," he said.

Johnson repeated the message that he's delivered a few times this spring: That power pitchers take longer to get a feel for their stuff in spring and also that Rodriguez needs time to round into form given he's less than seven months removed from elbow surgery and didn't take part in winter ball.

"He's going to take some time," Johnson said. "But I think his arm is getting feeling pretty good. Just power pitches always have a problem. Every spring I've ever had 'em. And with what he went through in the winter, he's behind everybody. He'll get it. He throws it over, he's nasty."

In contrast to Rodriguez's up-and-down inning, J.C. Romero threw a smooth 1-2-3 eighth in his Nats debut, striking out Brandon Laird to end the frame.

"I thought he threw the ball good," Johnson said. "Hit his spots. Zip on the fastball. Good breaking ball."

Does Romero, who was just signed on Friday, need more time to get into regular season form?

"He looks ready to me," Johnson said.

As for Craig Stammen, who allowed five runs on six hits in 1 1/3 innings, Johnson said the righty was just too strong, having only appeared in one game in the last nine days. Johnson left Stammen in to take a bit of a beating in the seventh, when he allowed hits to five of the first six batters he saw to open the inning.

"But he needed the work, he hadn't pitched in a while," Johnson said. "The outing before he threw like nine or 10 pitches. So he just needed the work."

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