DENVER -- The Nationals expressed relief on Saturday that Rockies pitcher Juan Nicasio was alert and resting comfortably after having surgery to repair a broken C-1 vertebrae in his neck.

Nicasio suffered the injury when he was struck on the right side of the head by an Ian Desmond line drive in the second inning of the Nationals' 5-3 victory on Friday night.

"He got hit so hard. I was really worried about him," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. "We understand he's talking and knows what went on last night, so that's great news."

Johnson said he has seen "a ton" of players be hit in the head during his long baseball career. The skipper reflected on being hit just below the nose by a fastball while playing Double-A ball.

"People think baseball isn't a very dangerous game, but it's dangerous," Johnson said. "That ball is coming at the hitter 100 mph, and it's going back even faster than that at the pitcher and other players."

Pudge cleared to play, may catch Strasburg

DENVER -- After experiencing a setback in his recovery from a strained right oblique earlier in the week, Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez visited Dr. Bill Myers on in Philadelphia on Saturday morning for a second opinion.

Myers cleared Rodriguez to play, and the catcher immediately headed to Class A Hagerstown, where he was scheduled to take batting practice on Saturday, the Nationals said.

Rodriguez was to be evaluated by the team's training staff following the hitting session, and it's possible, if given the green light, that he could catch on Sunday when Stephen Strasburg makes his first rehab start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in September.

The possibility of a rehab assignment this weekend seemed unlikely on Thursday, when the team announced that Rodriguez had a setback in his recovery and would be visiting the same doctor that performed abdominal surgery on Ryan Zimmerman earlier this season.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Rodriguez needs caution against trying to return to game action too soon.

"Sure, he can catch," Johnson said. "I'm not worried about him catching. I'm worried about him swinging."

Rodriguez had to cut a batting practice short on July 7, two weeks after suffering the injury, so his chances to start on Sunday will be determined by how he responds to Saturday's session.

Change in batting stance gives Desmond a lift

DENVER -- Lost in the shuffle on Friday night was a four-hit performance from Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.

Over his past 10 games entering Saturday's action, Desmond was hitting .355 (11-for-31) with a home run and five RBIs. Nationals manager Davey Johnson credits a change in Desmond's stance for the recent success.

"He wasn't really in an athletic position," Johnson said. "He was kind of upright. He's an athlete, a gifted athlete. In early batting practice, he made some adjustments where he got a little closer to the plate and got more in an athletic position.

"He's lower down, not standing straight up, not diving in as much."

Desmond is hitting .300 since the All-Star break after batting just .223 in the first half of the season.