News and notes before Nationals face Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Some news and notes from Nationals manager Jim Riggleman’s pregame chat with reporters before Thursday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

* Riggleman thinks right-hander Yunesky Maya looks more comfortable in a starting role than he does coming of the bullpen. So Riggleman is particularly interested in seeing whether Maya can continue to be in the mix for the fifth starter’s role in his second Grapefruit League start. “I want to see him continue to do what he does - attack hitters, continue to get a good rotation on that breaking ball, work fast,” Riggleman said. “His better performances have been when we’ve allowed him to start a game rather than get his work in coming out of the bullpen.” Coming into Thursday’s game, Maya has allowed two runs (one earned) in 8 2/3 innings. He’s struck out eight, but walked four. To claim the last spot in the rotation, he’ll need to limit the walks.

* Second baseman Danny Espinosa, who earlier Thursday claimed “lingering soreness” in his right foot wouldn’t prevent him from playing against the Braves, hadn’t yet convinced Riggleman that he was ready. Espinosa fouled a ball off his right foot against the Mets in Port St. Lucie on Tuesday night, but Riggleman said he wanted to see how Espinosa looked in warmups before deciding whether he would play behind Jerry Hairston Jr., who started at second. “(Espinosa) tells me he’s feeling good, but the trainers are a little leery, He’s here on the trip, I may get him a little work, but I guess he’s pretty sore. We’ll see how he’s moving around here before the game and that’ll help determine whether I put him in the game at all,” Riggleman said.

* Don’t be surprised if some of the Nationals start playing a full nine innings, Riggleman said. With the camp roster down to 38 after four more cuts before Thursday’s game, there are fewer players available and less need to protect veterans who are playing themselves into game shape. That means more innings and fewer days off. “We’re getting to that point where some guys will be playing nine (innings),” Riggleman said. “We’ll start playing some guys three days in a row now.”