KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Sean Burnett was scheduled to pitch two innings in Wednesday's 8-7 loss to the Astros, but he only pitched one after he was struck on the left knee by teammate Nyjer Morgan's foul ball in the first.

After he was through pitching, Burnett was seen with an ice wrap around the knee.

Burnett, who tossed a scoreless frame, said the knee is fine.

Zimmerman to use caution with groin injury

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said his left groin injury isn't serious and he would play if the regular season was under way. Since it's Spring Training, Zimmerman is being cautious and will miss at least five games.

It's the second injury Zimmerman has suffered this spring. He also missed time with an abdominal strain.

Zimmerman doesn't know exactly how he hurt his groin, but he started to feel pain Monday against the Tigers. He can't recall the one play that caused the injury.

"The injury is not bad," Zimmerman said. "We want to try and get rid of it before the season starts. We are being cautious. We have 2 1/2 weeks down in Florida. It's really not a big deal."

The Nationals were 10-7 entering Wednesday's game against the Astros, and Zimmerman sees a team that has more energy than last season. He believes the team should improve in the standings after winning 69 games in 2010.

"We are doing great, I think," Zimmerman said. "The chemistry is great. We are playing a lot better defense, we are running the bases better. So far, it's an upgrade from last year. I just think the overall energy and the plan we want to do as a team together is a lot better, too.

"I think we are more talented, a little bit more experienced. We have been through some things last year that I feel will help us win more games this year. We were a young team last year. I think the young guys have a year of experience. We did a great job bringing in four or five veterans that could help us out. I would be surprised if we didn't do better."

Ramos could be starting catcher soon

KISSIMEE, Fla. -- The Nationals have already announced that Ivan Rodriguez will be the Opening Day starting catcher against the Braves. However, members of the team's think tank believe that catcher Wilson Ramos is ready to take over the No. 1 role right now, according to a baseball source.

The team has not ruled out Ramos being the starter during the first half of the season. It was announced by the team that Ramos would take over the starting role after the All-Star break.

There is a reason to believe Ramos, who was acquired from the Twins in the Matt Capps deal last July, is ready to take over the No. 1 spot. Entering Wednesday's action, Ramos is 6-for-24 (.250) with one RBI, while Rodriguez is hitting .238 with two RBIs. Rodriguez is experiencing a cramp in his calf and will miss a couple of games.

The big question is, how would Rodriguez handle being a reserve? He has never been a bench player during his career and he has often said he wants to play another three or four years. He has one year left on his two-year deal with Washington.

Espinosa OK after fouling ball off right foot

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- A day after fouling a ball off his top right foot, Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa was seen limping in the Nationals locker room at Space Coast Stadium on Wednesday morning, but manager Jim Riggleman said Espinosa is going to be OK.

X-rays on Espinosa's foot returned negative. He will be treated and evaluated on a daily basis. He is listed as day-to-day.

Washington's second baseman left Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Mets in the top of the seventh inning after hurting his foot.

Espinosa, who had to be carried off the field and into the trainer's room, initially appeared to be seriously hurt. Alex Cintron took Espinosa's place and struck out on a 1-2 pitch. Espinosa was charged with the strikeout.

"Espinosa is fine. He wanted to play today," Riggleman said. "We just decided not to do that. We might get him in there [Thursday]."

Reliever Kimball continues to impress

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Right-hander Cole Kimball continues to show that he is deserving of a spot on the Nationals' Opening Day roster. He made his sixth relief appearance of the spring Wednesday, pitching two shutout innings in an 8-7 loss to the Astros.

Kimball acknowledged that he didn't have his best command, walking three hitters. At one point during the sixth inning, pitching coach Steve McCatty had to calm Kimble down.

"Will you just throw the ball?" McCatty said to Kimball. "Stop thinking. Just pitch."

Kimball did just that. With runners on first and second with one out, Kimball struck out Humberto Quintero and Drew Locke to end the frame.

"I was able to battle through it," Kimball said. "Cat [McCatty] had a great mound visit. He just kind of calmed me down and I just let it go. It was good just trying to keep the team [in the game]."