Taveras earns platoon in right field
Veteran edges Morse for at-bats against lefties
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It looks like Willie Harris has a new platoon partner in right field. Manager Jim Riggleman said Thursday that Willy Taveras will play against left-handed pitching.
Riggleman said he decided to go with Taveras because the speedy veteran can play solid defense. For the spring, the right-handed-hitting Taveras is hitting .302 with a home run and five RBIs.
Taveras beat out Mike Morse for the job.
"If we are not going to put a right-field bat out there, we probably want to go with somebody who can cover ground with speed," Riggleman said. "Mike does a good job, but Willy has a chance to be an exceptional outfielder for us. We would take advantage of Willy swinging the bat from the right side and playing defense."
A center fielder by trade, Taveras has played every day the last five years of his career with the Astros, Rockies and Reds, but said he is willing to accept a role off the bench. He signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals in February.
"I was trying to make the club. This is my first time coming off the bench," Taveras said. "I'm going to work hard, do my best and help the team win some ballgames. We need to win. That's the bottom line."
As for Morse, he most likely will see most of his time at first and third base, while coming off the bench as a valuable pinch-hitter.
"We feel there is a place for Mike on the ballclub, but he is not opening up as our right fielder," Riggleman said.
Guzman gets first taste of outfield
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Infielder Cristian Guzman found himself playing right field in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Mets on Thursday. It marked the first time Guzman has played the outfield in his life. He didn't see any action as right-hander Tyler Walker retired the side in order.
Asked what it was like to go out there, Guzman said, "Long, man. [Manager Jim] Riggleman told me today to catch fly balls and ground balls during batting practice."
Guzman is expected to see action in the outfield the next two games before Opening Day on Monday. If everything works according to plan, Guzman could play six different positions -- the two corner outfield spots and all four infield positions.
"The Nationals want me to play. That's why they are giving me a lot of positions," Guzman said.
Reliever Bergmann bounces back
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After giving up five straight hits to the Marlins on Tuesday, right-hander Jason Bergmann pitched one shutout inning against the Mets on Thursday.
What was the difference between the outings? He decided to be aggressive on the mound against the Mets. The other day, he was trying to pitch to contact and avoid giving up home runs. It didn't work.
"I got out of the bullpen and said, 'Here you go. You are either going to hit it or you're not.'" Bergmann said. "This spring, I've been trying to hit spots and use the sinker more, but I went back and did what I was doing last year. I felt much better. My arm felt nice and free."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.