Rizzo on state of bullpen and S. Romero's return (Nats fall 12-3)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Koda Glover hasn't thrown a baseball since reporting to camp with a sore shoulder. Joaquin Benoit, signed the first week of spring training, has a 9.00 ERA. Matt Albers is in Arizona wearing a Brewers uniform.

That might all be cause for concern for the Nationals, who don't have any real sure things in their bullpen beyond the three veterans acquired last July in trades. But general manager Mike Rizzo insists he's not looking for more upgrades from outside the organization at this point, citing the spring performances of a few less-heralded returning arms.

"We're extremely happy with the bullpen arms that we have in camp," Rizzo said. "I'm really excited about (Trevor) Gott and (Austin L.) Adams, the way they've made what seems to be another step forward in their progression. So we think our depth has improved during spring training."

The Nationals know they'll have the late-inning trio of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle closing out games for them to open the season, but little about the rest of the bullpen's configuration is set. Shawn Kelley (if he stays healthy) will make the club, as most likely will two of three lefties with experience (Sammy Solís, Enny Romero, Matt Grace).

Other options include the aforementioned Gott (who carried a six-inning scoreless streak into today's game), Adams (4 2/3 scoreless innings this spring) and Tim Collins (one run in six innings), plus Benoit (three runs in three innings).

Koda-Glover-throw-gray-sidebar.jpgThe Nationals hoped Glover would be part of the mix, but the 24-year-old still has not been cleared to resume throwing after reporting to camp with a sore shoulder in a repeat of the injury that sidelined him for much of the 2017 season.

"It's taking longer than initially anticipated," Rizzo said. "He came in sore, which we weren't planning on. He was good all winter. We sent our medical staff to him in Oklahoma. He threw well and came here and had a setback. So we're taking an extremely cautious approach with him, because he's a big part of our future and we want to see him healthy. So really taking our time with him."

In other news, Rizzo said minor league left-hander Seth Romero has not yet returned to camp after being sent home 10 days ago for a violation of team rules. The Nationals do not have a set timetable for Romero, last summer's first-round pick who had been kicked off the University of Houston baseball team after multiple incidents, to return.

"He has to show something to me," Rizzo said, "that he deserves the honor of being back in camp."

Update: With Stephen Strasburg pitching in a minor league game outside the stadiumm Tommy Milone got the start against the big league Astros this afternoon and was battered around for two innings. Milone wound up allowing three runs on five hits and two walks, with all three runs coming in the top of the first. Manager Davey Martinez had said the plan was to stretch out the left-hander today, but Milone wound up getting pulled after only 49 pitches.

The Nationals have managed to put at least one runner on base in each of the first four innings against Dallas Keuchel, but so far they've been unable to advance any of them across the plate. They trail 3-0 heading to the fifth.

Update II: Ever seen a team give up four runs in an inning without allowing a hit? If you were here at the ballpark today, you did. The top of the fifth was a nightmare for the Nationals. Austin L. Adams walked four straight batters to open the frame and was yanked. Bryce Harper dropped a routine flyball to right. Matt Adams couldn't handle a one-hop throw to first. Howie Kendrick couldn't cleanly field a double-play grounder. Put it all together, and the Nats now trail 7-0.

Update III: The Astros scored five runs off Ismael Guillón in the ninth and won 12-3. Chris Dominguez doubled home Matt Reynolds in the ninth, and Blake Perkins and Spencer Kieboom drew bases-loaded walks for the Nationals runs.

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