Zimmerman, Ramos to make spring debuts; Rodriguez, Garcia updates (and lineups)

VIERA, Fla. - It's a brisk 48 degrees with a stiff breeze here at Space Coast Stadium this morning, weather that led Nationals players to snatch up beanies and ear sleeves in the clubhouse and toss on their windbreakers before taking the field for delayed warm-ups.

A few of the Nats' veteran position players sent 11-year-old Drake LaRoche into manager Davey Johnson's office to ask if they could hit in the cages instead of taking a full batting practice on the field, both because of the weather and because it's Sunday.

Johnson obliged. It's hard to say no to Drake LaRoche.

The Nats skipper wrote Ryan Zimmerman's name into a lineup today for the first time this spring. Zimmerman, who has been eased into action the last couple of weeks as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, will get three at-bats today, Johnson said.

Wilson Ramos will then replace Zimmerman in the lineup and likely get one at-bat. This will mark the first game action for Ramos since he tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee last May.

Ramos took part in sliding drills yesterday and came through just fine. This was the final hurdle for Ramos, who has now been cleared completely by the team's training staff.

"You just gotta deal with me now, pal," Johnson said he told Ramos.

I'll pass along Ramos' thoughts on being cleared for game action in a bit.

Johnson said he plans to alternate Zimmerman and Ramos as his DH in upcoming games. National League teams can use a DH up until March 18, and for the time being, Zimmerman and Ramos will split those duties.

Dr. Wiemi Douoguih checked out Christian Garcia this weekend, and while Garcia has been feeling better recently, Dr. Douoguih found that the right-hander still has some discomfort in his injured wrist/forearm.

Johnson said that there's no timetable for when Garcia will be able to start throwing again, as the Nats just have to wait until Garcia's arm is completely healed. Despite this recent setback, the plans to stretch Garcia out this spring haven't changed, however.

"He should still be stretched out," Johnson said. "He's the kind of pitcher, he's a big machine. Having him do one inning every day is just as stressful as one day pitching one or two innings, or four or five innings. But it's all about building to that point."

Once Garcia is discomfort-free, he'll have to throw a couple bullpen sessions and then face live hitters before he can get into a game.

Johnson said Micah Owings received a cortisone shot in his left wrist recently and has started some light swinging. Owings, who is trying to make the transition from a pitcher to a position player this spring, has been held out for nearly a week because of discomfort in the wrist.

Henry Rodriguez is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session Tuesday, and if all goes well, he might be able to get into a game on Friday, March 8 against the Cardinals. Rodriguez had elbow surgery last August and has been limited by biceps tightness this spring.

Johnson plans to ease Rodriguez into action and could just have him face one batter during his first Grapefruit League appearance.

Today's Nats lineup, at least regarding the position players, could be a little taste of what we'll see on opening day.

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 Kurt Suzuki
3B Steve Lombardozzi
P Ross Detwiler

For the Cardinals
CF Shane Robinson
LF Adron Chambers
2B Matt Carpenter
DH Ty Wigginton
1B Mike Adams
C Tony Cruz
SS Pete Kozma
RF Justin Christian
SS Ronny Cedeno
P Jaime Garcia

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