Wire Taps: Washington Nationals' Davey Johnson Talks Fernando Abad, Henry Rodriguez; Stephen Strasburg vs Mets

USA TODAY Sports

The big story last night was Stephen Strasburg's second start of the Spring, but before the game against the New York Mets, Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson talked to reporters about two of the relievers in the Nats pen: Fernando Abad and Henry Rodriguez.

Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson talked about Stephen Strasburg's development before yesterday's game against the New York Mets, but the Nats' 70-year-old skipper also updated reporters on two of the relievers in camp with the Nats. Henry Rodriguez, who is still working his way back following last summer's season-ending elbow surgery, has impressed Johnson again this Spring, though he's yet to throw live BP against the major league hitters. Will he be ready for Opening Day? "Well, from what I've seen," Johnson told reporters, "His flat-ground has been outstanding. He's been throwing long. I think more than anything it's for him to feel comfortable that [the] soreness in his elbow that he felt last year is not there. He's always had winter ball coming in here, so with the surgery and with the pretty long Spring, I'm sure when he really feels comfortable he'll be ready. And as far as I'm concerned, he's real close."

The Nationals' manager has also been impressed with roster long-shot, 27-year-old lefty Fernando Abad, who's thrown 2.0 scoreless with two walks and two Ks so far this Spring. "I was really impressed with the way he threw [Wednesday]," Johnson said, referring to the quick, five-pitch inning against the Miami Marlins. "I've always liked his arm, the way he attacked hitters [Wednesday], he threw a couple good curve balls, that was great, command was good. [Pitching coach Steve McCatty] wanted him to go another inning, I said, 'No. I want to see that the day after tomorrow.' He'll come back with one day off and throw again, so I was real pleased with that."

Asked about his enthusiasm for a pitcher whose numbers so far in his career are not all that impressive, Johnson said a lefty with stuff like Abad's often takes time to develop. "I really like his arm," Johnson said, "I've always heard that a good, young, left-handed arm, especially a hard-thrower, sometimes it takes him a while to get it. I mean, [Sandy] Koufax took him until he was 26, 27, so I have a lot of patience with those guys with real good arms, and left-handed."

Will either pitcher make the Opening Day roster? That will play out over the next month. Until then, it's links and lots of them, starting... RIGHT NOW!!!!:

• THE BIG STORY!!!! (Today In Two Parts):

• "Now, [Dan] Haren and the Nationals believe he can pitch at his previous level even if his fastball barely scrapes 90 mph." - "Dan Haren’s encouraging velocity surprised even him" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "The Washington Nationals’ vision of a new ballpark experience begins at an unmanned turnstile, where a plan holder waves her card over a reader and makes 'contact-less' entry in less than a second." - "Washington Nationals to introduce smart card system for ticket holders" - Dan Steinberg, The Washington Post

• NATS BEAT:

• "It is a confusing world that doesn’t come with clear answers. 'No concussions are the same," Span said."" - "Denard Span more aware after concussion scare" - Mike Harris, Washington Times

• "[Stephen] Strasburg still looked good, though, showing off a biting curveball and tough changeup. He struck out six on the night, five of which were swinging." - "Nationals Pastime: Strasburg strikes out six in three strong innings" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "He's done so much in so little time with the Nationals that it's easy to forget just how young and inexperienced Stephen Strasburg still remains." - "Strasburg still has room to grow" - Mark Zuckerman, NatsInsider.com

• "'I was able to work down at the knees a little better. Off speed, I really didn't throw enough off speed to see how it was the last game but I threw it a little bit more and it felt good.'" - "Strasburg is sharp as Nats and Mets play to a tie" - Craig Heist, WTOP.com

• "It was the Nationals' second tie of the spring. Ask how he felt about the games ending in a tie, manager Davey Johnson said, 'Awful, but at least we got 10 innings in.'" - "Washington Nationals' Stephen Strasburg dazzles against New York Mets" - Bill Ladson, nationals.com: News

• "Stephen Strasburg’s sinker may still be a work in progress. His other pitches seem to be rounding into shape quite nicely." - "Strasburg Strikes out 6, Nats and Mets Tie" - Dan Morrison, CBS DC

• "'He'd threw I think seven pitches the first inning,' Johnson said. 'I don't have a problem ... he's a multi-inning guy for me anyway. But it's early. Fifteen pitches is a good outing.'" - "Nationals Pastime: Johnson talks Strasburg and Mattheus, says Zimmerman will DH Sunday" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "The nerves that Stephen Strasburg felt in his first start of the spring were still there on Thursday night, just lessened." - "Stephen Strasburg more comfortable in second spring start" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• "Stephen Strasburg took a few positives out of his outing against the Mets tonight, a three-inning stint in which he allowed a run on two hits, walked one and struck out six." - "Nationals Pastime: Strasburg on his repertoire, what he's focusing on going forward (4-4 final in 10)" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "In his second start of the spring, against the Mets on Thursday night in Viera, [Stephen] Strasburg made gradual improvements in certain areas of recent weakness: fastball command and rushed delivery." - "Stephen Strasburg working through minor kinks in second spring start" - James Wagner, Washington Post

• "Ryan Zimmerman has ramped up his throwing program and should be in the lineup in about a week. Same for Wilson Ramos, who looks strong as ever following a torn ACL." - "Quiet camp is good camp for Nationals" - Mark Zuckerman, CSN Washington

• "But there is a legitimate argument to be made that if Washington had entered the 2012 season without sufficient organizational depth, that leap wouldn't have happened." - "Just like last year, Nationals have a big need to go deep" - Brian McNally, WashingtonExaminer.com

• "With a competition for only one or two spots in the bullpen, [Henry] Rodriguez’s spot isn’t assured. Full clearance to pitch in games would allow him to fully contend for that spot." - "Henry Rodriguez still feels tightness in throwing arm" - James Wagner, Washington Post

• "[Henry] Rodriguez is out of options, but he is equipped with a live fastball, so the Nationals are keeping a hopeful watch on the right-hander." - "Nats delay Rodriguez's live BP session" - Joey Nowak, nationals.com: News

• "A 27-year-old Dominican Republic native, Abad came up in the Houston Astros organization and has had mixed results in his major league career." - "Fernando Abad in the mix for bullpen spot" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• "'I’m doing my job and competing,' [Fernando] Abad said in Spanish. 'I’m working hard and throwing the ball well. The decision is up to them.'" - "Fernando Abad drawing early attention in camp" - James Wagner, Washington Post

• "[Chris] Young did take an important step toward being game-ready Wednesday when he threw his first live batting practice of the spring." - "Nationals notes: Chris Young plays catch-up in camp" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• "Here's a random note: Including tonight's game, all seven spring games the Nationals have been a part of to this point have been against division opponents." - "Nationals Pastime: Some Friday morning notes and quotes" - Dan Kolko, MASNSports.com

• "[Ryan] Mattheus made mincement of a cluster of Mets minor leaguers. He retired all six batters he faced and struck out three while using only 15 pitches." - "Ryan Mattheus works extra, Ryan Zimmerman to debut Sunday" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "[Chris] Young expects to throw another bullpen session on Friday before making his Grapefruit League debut." - "Young faces hitters for first time at Nats camp" - Joey Nowak, nationals.com: News

• "'The pitch count was down so it made sense,' Mattheus said. 'It wasn’t a very high-stress inning so I was happy to go back out.'" - "Ryan Mattheus feels strong after multi-inning outing" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• "The ability for [Ryan] Zimmerman to shed the bad habits caused by his shoulder injuries – AC joint inflammation and fraying in his labrum and rotator cuff – is a major factor for the Nationals." - "Ryan Zimmerman starts throwing to bases, feeling ‘back to normal’" - Adam Kilgore, Washington Post

• "Ryan Zimmerman will make his spring training debut on Sunday, manager Davey Johnson said Thursday night." - "Ryan Zimmerman to DH Sunday, Wilson Ramos to be examined Saturday & other notes" - Amanda Comak, Washington Times

• Your Daily Message From The Dalai Lama On Twitter (@DalaiLama):

• NATIONAL(S) BEAT:

• "[Buster] Olney says the 'Nats are the best team in baseball right now,' but laments that Scott Boras clients Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper might not sign extensions early." - "ESPN ranks Nationals No. 4 in latest 'Future Power Rankings'" - Byron Kerr, MASNSports.com

• "[Jayson] Werth made waves when he called his Washington team the 'most complete team' he has played on, and again this week when he said the Phillies, not the Braves, were the Nationals' chief competition within the division." - "NL East likely a race to the finish" - Ryan Lawrence, Philly.com

• "[Stephen] Strasburg, expected to be the Nationals' opening day starter, already has an overpowering fastball, a wicked curve and a changeup that just doesn't seem fair." - "Stephen Strasburg still trying to perfect sinker" - AP/USA Today Sports

• "The division is markedly better than it was a few years ago. It isn't going to be easy for anyone to win it - and that includes the Nationals." - "Phillies may be better than Braves to challenge the Nationals" - Phil Sheridan, Baseball Wires - MiamiHerald.com

• NATSTOWN:

"March 1: Today we note two players who finished their careers with the Washington Senators…" - "This Date in Washington Senators History" - Art Audley, D.C. Baseball History

• "Bryce Harper’s Men’s Health cover" - Sarah Kogod, Washington Post

• "Bryce Harper on the cover of Men's Health with Mike Trout and Buster Posey" - Nats Enquirer

• "Rendon Plates Two In Another Nats Tie" - Luke Erickson, NationalsProspects.com

• "ESPN Insider has been running a series the past week in which they list the 'MLB Future Power Rankings.'" - "Nats Rank Fourth In ESPN's 'Future Power Rankings'" - William Yoder, The Nats Blog

• "Every year, in every Major League camp, there is some youngster who shows up, opens eyes with his swing or his arm, and becomes the next most-talked about prospect, waiting to crack the big leagues." - "The Next Best Thing" - Curly W Live

• "Towering 6-foot-9 right-hander Alex Meyer, the prospect whom the Twins acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Denard Span during the offseason, blistered 95 mph fastballs and knee-buckling slider over the plate in an eye-opening display of obvious big-league caliber stuff." - "For Ben Cherington and the Red Sox, a glimpse of what could have been with Alex Meyer" - Alex Speier, Full Count WEEI, 93.7 FM

• "If you asked him after the game, Stephen Strasburg probably wasn’t entirely happy about his fastball command in his Thursday night outing against the New York Mets." - "Washington Nationals Spring Training: Strasburg sharp in three inning stint" - Dave Nichols, District Sports Page

• NL EAST UPDATES:

Phillies: "Mike Adams took the mound in a Phillies uniform for the first time Thursday, and afterward, was asked to compare how he felt physically to the same time last spring." - "Mike Adams feeling good in Phillies debut" - Ryan Lawrence, Philadelphia Daily News

Mets: "'I kind of look at it as a last chance,' Marlon Byrd said yesterday. 'If I don’t make this team, I don’t see many other chances in baseball.'" - "Veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd seeking ‘last chance’ with New York Mets" - Mike Puma, NYPOST.com

Braves: "The calendar is just turning to March so Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez can shrug off the incongruity between the high expectations and shaky results for pitchers Paul Maholm and Craig Kimbrel." - "No worries for Braves after rough outings by Maholm, Kimbrel" - Michael Cunningham, www.ajc.com

Marlins: "The seesaw saga over who said what and when continues between Jose Reyes and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria." - "Jose Reyes sticks by story, disputes Loria's account" - Clark Spencer, Fish Bytes

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