Johnson pleased with Haren, Storen and Skole in 2-1 loss

LAKELAND, Fla. - It was a fairly uneventful afternoon from an offensive perspective here at Joker Marchant Stadium. The Nationals and Tigers combined for three runs on 11 hits in a 2-1 Detroit win, and all four of the hits in the Nats’ column were singles.

From a pitching perspective, however, Davey Johnson saw a bunch of positives.

Dan Haren went four strong innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two strikeouts. The veteran right-hander threw 61 pitches (43 for strikes), and if not for a sloppy defensive inning in the second, Haren’s line would have looked even sharper.

“Danny Haren was great. I thought he threw the ball real good,” Johnson said. “He wasn’t really happy, he didn’t put some guys away. He didn’t locate where he wanted when he got two strikes on them. He felt he made a couple bad pitches, but I thought he pitched great. Looked great. (We) gave them five outs that one inning, but looked sharp.”

Haren has made working inside to right-handed hitters a priority this spring, something that hasn’t really been part of his repertoire in past years.

“Well, he’s got great command both sides of the plate,” Johnson said. “I don’t worry about that. It’s just a normal spring where he gets all of his pitches working, gets his arm in shape. I thought he was throwing really good today. He had good velocity. I think he said something to (pitching coach Steve McCatty), ‘Shoot, I didn’t have that until last year in September.’ But he can pitch. Knows what he’s doing out there.”

Drew Storen apparently knew what he was doing out there today, as well. Storen struck out Kevin Russo and Austin Jackson on 94 mph fastballs up in the zone to start the fifth inning, then retired Torii Hunter on a groundout to third to end the frame.

Johnson felt that Storen was dropping his elbow in his last outing, which he says led to Storen losing some command. Storen allowed two hits his last time out, but today, he looked on-point.

“He was a lot better today,” Johnson said. “I thought his arm position was great. He had a few little wrinkles today. I won’t go into it. But he looked good. ... He knows what he’s doing getting ready. I thought he located better, I thought his arm position was better. And he got to come in in the fifth inning and throw to (catcher Wilson) Ramos. So he was happy about that.”

Matt Skole had one of the Nationals’ four hits today - a broken-bat single in the third - and added a sacrifice fly in the seventh. But it was a diving play that Skole made at first base in the eighth inning that drew the attention of reporters.

Skole is a natural third baseman, but he played some first base during his stint in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, and has gotten time there this spring, as well. Johnson has said that Skole is one of the players who has impressed him most this spring, and he likes what he sees from the 23-year-old at both corners.

“He’s a really good-looking young player,” Johnson said. “I like him at third base. At third base, he could go over there in his sleep. But he’s got a good arm, he’s got good hands. I like his bat approach. He just needs to go play.”

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