Nationals 11, Braves 2

Ryan Zimmerman has already told Nationals manager Davey Johnson

that he needs only 50 at-bats in spring training to be ready for

the regular season.

Washington’s third baseman, who had 48 at-bats coming into

Wednesday’s game against Atlanta, homered three times to lead a

split squad of Nationals to an 11-2 win over the Braves.

”I guess as soon as Zim gets his 50 at-bats, he’s ready,”

Johnson joked.

Zimmerman wasn’t the only one to go deep for the Nationals, who

got a pair of home runs from catcher Wilson Ramos and another from

Tyler Moore. Four of Washington’s six homers came against reliever

Daniel Rodriguez, who gave up eight runs in two-plus innings.

Ramos and Zimmerman each had four RBIs.

Both of Ramos’ home runs came against Rodriguez, and both were

on the first pitch. The second was a three-run shot.

Zimmerman led off the fourth inning with a home run against

Rodriguez, led off the fifth with one off Christian Martinez and

then hit a two-run shot against Dusty Hughes in the seventh.

”I hit the ball good,” Zimmerman said. ”I’m starting to feel

better. . It’s nice to start getting going.”

The Nationals have one game left in Viera on Thursday against

the New York Mets before heading to Washington D.C. for an

exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday. They open the season

Monday at home against Miami.

While a number of teams have had competition for positions

throughout the spring, the Nationals have pretty much known what

their opening day roster will look like.

”We’ve pretty much known all spring what our team is,”

Zimmerman said. ”It’s almost the exact same as last year. It’s

kind of an advantage for us because we get to use this time to get

back to doing what we were doing last year. .. We have a good team.

We just have to keep getting better.”

Zimmerman may be on track for opening day, but Atlanta catcher

Gerald Laird admittedly needed some work after being slowed earlier

this spring by a calf injury.

Laird and teammate Evan Gattis hit back-to-back home runs off

Washington starter Ross Detwiler in the sixth inning.

”I’m starting to feel good at the right time,” Laird said.

It was Laird’s second game in a row, but only his 12th of the

spring. He has had just 25 at-bats.

”I’m going to try to catch tomorrow, too, so I can go three in

a row,” Laird said. ”It was nice to get back out there and try to

get your timing going. The first day, you’re kind of excited. .. It

was a good all-around day.”

Ramiro Pena had three hits for the Braves.

Moore, who followed Ramos’ first homer with one of his own, was

starting in place of Bryce Harper, who did not even take batting

practice to rest his injured left thumb.

Harper was jammed with a pitch in Tuesday’s game against Miami.

He had originally experienced pain and swelling in the thumb after

getting jammed with a pitch March 22 against Detroit.

The left fielder, who is batting .476 this spring, has reached

base in his last 10 plate appearances. He told reporters Wednesday

he would have been able to play if it were a regular-season


As it stands, though, Harper’s status is up in the air for the

final two games – Thursday in Viera and Friday in D.C. – as a

precaution before the season opener.

”Whenever you get jammed, it hurts.” Harper said. ”(Tuesday),

I got jammed a little bit. It hurt pretty bad. I woke up this

morning and it felt fine. It’s just a matter of getting through it

and playing through it. I don’t think it’s going to hold me down or

anything. I have a pretty high pain tolerance.”

Harper experienced a similar situation in his first season at

Class-A Hagerstown, but said this injury isn’t nearly as severe. He

has been wearing a foam pad on his thumb during batting practice,

and may be forced to wear it during a game.

”It feels pretty uncomfortable, but I’m going to have to get

used to it because I don’t want to get jammed up and keep dealing

with it,” Harper said. ”We’ll see what happens, see how it feels

and go from there.”

NOTES: Stephen Strasburg threw five innings in an intrasquad

game at the team’s minor league complex. It was Strasburg’s final

spring appearance before he takes the mound on opening day against

Miami. … Johnson said he expects to have the team’s roster

finalized by the time the Nationals arrive in Washington on Friday

. RHP Christian Garcia expects to be cleared to begin throwing on

Monday. Garcia is on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm

tendon injury. Johnson still sees Garcia as a future starting

pitcher . Detwiler, who will have nine days in between starts, is

expected to throw a few bullpen sessions to keep sharp . RHP Henry

Rodriguez did not give up a run in his inning of work despite

loading the bases on a single and two walks. Johnson said Rodriguez

will likely throw on the side Thursday and then again on Friday

against the Yankees . C Evan Gattis has made the Braves’ opening

day roster and actually has a chance to see some early playing time

with C Brian McCann still recovering from offseason shoulder

surgery and Laird not getting many at-bats this spring because of a

strained calf.