VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said Sunday that he is hoping to play his first spring game against the Cardinals on Wednesday at Space Coast Stadium.

LaRoche, who has been bothered by left shoulder and ankle injuries this spring, was able to take batting practice and participate in throwing drills on Saturday. LaRoche missed most of last season because of rotator cuff and labrum tears in his left shoulder. The ankle, which he hurt running the bases last week, continues to get better.

LaRoche plans to take live batting practice at the Nationals' Minor League complex on Monday.

"The shoulder probably felt the best swinging yesterday. It might have been from a day off before that," LaRoche said. "The ankle is fine. Again, knock on wood, it felt really good yesterday. It's so early in camp that I'm being extra cautious."

Espinosa working to improve from left side

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa is the first to say he must improve from the left side of the plate. Last year, although he hit for power (15 homers, 20 doubles), Espinosa had a .223 batting average and struck out 132 times in 443 left-handed at-bats. From the right side, Espinosa was consistent at the plate, going 36-for-130 [.277].

It was the first time in his professional career that Espinosa had problems from the left side of the plate. He knows he has to shorten his swing and cut down on the strikeouts.

"Left-handed, we are trying to get him more direct to the baseball," hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. "Getting more direct to the ball, he still has to use the whole field -- hitting the ball where it's pitched. Danny got into a lift habit [going for the long ball] and he also chased out of the zone.

"We have to get him back into the strike zone where he has got to know himself and what pitches he is looking for, not expand too much. Right-handed, he is very direct to the ball. He showed tremendous ability to take the barrel to the ball and be very direct there."

If Espinosa can hit on a consistent basis from the left side, there is no telling what his offensive numbers could be in 2012. Last year, Espinosa hit 21 home runs with 66 RBIs. Asked what Espinosa was capable of if he was able to get that left-handed swing together, Eckstein said, "Oh, gosh. The potential is limitless there. He has the ability to hit the ball, hit doubles, hit home runs. He has a great eye at the plate. He has to learn to lay off certain pitches in the zone."

Johnson takes blame for Gorzelanny's outing

VIERA Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Tom Gorzelanny had an outing he would like to forget, allowing seven runs in one inning during a 10-2 loss to the Astros on Sunday afternoon.

With the game tied at 1, Gorzelanny replaced right-hander Stephen Strasburg in the third inning and the game quickly got out of hand. Gorzelanny allowed a three-run homer to J.D. Martinez to give the Astros a 4-1 lead.

Houston batted around in the next inning and scored five more runs off Gorzelanny. Fernando Martinez highlighted the scoring with a three-run homer.

After the game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson blamed himself for Gorzelanny's disappointing outing because Johnson had a tough time trying to get in contact with the relievers in the bullpen. Right-hander Ryan Mattheus didn't enter the game until after Fernando Martinez hit the home run.

"You can put it on me, but Gorzelanny is OK," Johnson said. "I had him throw a couple of more pitches than I wanted him to throw. We had a little problem communicating with the bullpen. ... Talking to Gorzo, he said he needed the work, but that's not the kind of work I wanted to give him. ... You can put that on me for letting him go out there to take a beating."

Gorzelanny, who is trying to make the team as a long reliever, was not available for comment.