March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches in the third inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
• Today's game, according to Braves' announcer Ben Ingram, was played, "... under a canopy of blue and cotton ball clouds."
• Worried?: The Ballpark at Disney's Wide World of Sports was the venue for Gio Gonzalez's Spring Training debut with the Washington Nationals, but it was the Nats' left fielder Michael Morse's name that was making headlines before the game, and not for good reasons. The 29-year-old Morse was scratched from the lineup about a half an hour before the game with what the Nationals said via Twitter @NationalsPR was a lat strain. No word on the severity of the injury, (ed. note - "Update via the WaPost's Adam Kilgore on Twitter, "Mike Rizzo is unconcerned with Morse's lat strain. 'It's a tweak,' he said. 'Just a day.'") but it was the second injury-related update of the afternoon, unfortunately. Nats' first baseman Adam LaRoche was expected to make his Spring debut on Wednesday. The 32-year-old first baseman is slowly working his way back following surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff damage in his left shoulder. Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters this morning that he would likely hold him out of Wedneday's game with St. Louis for precautionary reasons. "'I think he'll be champing at the bit for tomorrow,'" NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman quoted the Nats' manager explaining, "'but I'm not going to play him tomorrow,' Johnson said. 'Hopefully he'll be ready to go Thursday.'"
• NatGio: Gio Gonzalez's first competitive pitch for the Nationals was a 94 mph fastball to Braves' outfielder Michael Bourn that was called a strike by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher...
The new Nats' lefty allowed a one-out single and a two-out walk in his first inning of the Spring, but worked his way out of the opening frame. When he took the mound a second time he had a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Jayson Werth opposite field HR off Braves' right-hander Kris Medlen. The Nats' outfielder's first HR of the Spring was apparently wind-aided and it bounced off the wall, but it counts, 1-0 Nationals after one and a half, and Gonzalez responded with a quick 1-2-3 second.
By the time Gio Gonzalez took the mound again in the third he had a 3-0 lead courtesy of a "double" by Nats' bench option Chad Tracy, who drove in Brett Carroll (leadoff single) and Ryan Zimmerman (two-out walk) on a fly to right that Braves' outfielder Jason Heyward dropped as he he collided with the wall. Two runs score. 3-0 Nationals. Gonzalez's third inning of work started with ATL infield prospect Andrelton Simmons reaching on Ian Desmond's 3rd error of the Spring, but Nats' backstop Wilson Ramos caught Simmons trying to steal second. One down. Gonzalez got Michael Bourn looking and got a groundout to third by Martin Prado that had Gio Gonzalez through three scoreless with a 3-0 lead.
Gonzalez's line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K's.
• Highlights: Mark DeRosa hit a HR last Spring when he was in camp with the Giants, before that, the 37-year-old, 14-year veteran's last major league home run came in the first game of the 2010 season in an April 5, 2010 game against the Astros. Battling wrist issues the former Atlanta Braves' draft pick thinks are finally behind him, DeRosa lacked power but managed to put up a .279/.351/.302 line last year in 47 games and 97 plate appearances for the Giants over which he had just two extra base hits, both doubles. DeRosa's third HR since his first game of the '10 season came this afternoon when he hit a fourth-inning blast out to left off Braves' reliever Jonny Venters to give the Nationals a 4-0 lead.
• Harper and Rendon: 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper collected his fifth hit in eight Spring at bats in the second when he lined to right on the first pitch he saw this afternoon from Braves' right-hander Kris Medlen. The sometimes-over-aggressive Harper we've all heard about showed up on the basepaths, however, as he tried to take an extra base on a Wilson Ramos grounder to short, rounding second and heading toward third before falling and getting tagged out in what ended up a 5-6-3 DP. Bad decision. Harper ended the game 1 for 4, grounding out the second time up in the fourth, striking out swinging in the sixth and rolling a grounder to first in the eighth to end his afternoon. 2011 1st Round pick Anthony Rendon collected his first hit in six at bats in the eighth, doubling to right to lead off the inning against Braves' reliever Anthony Varvaro, and hustling for the extra base on a grounder that got by the first base bag and into the right field grass. Rendon moved to second when Jason Michaels was hit by a pitch, he took third on a fly out to right by Eury Perez and then scored on a sac fly by Tyler Moore. 5-2 Nationals after eight.
That's how it ends. Nationals 2-2 in Grapefruit League action.