02/26/2013 4:45 PM ET
Nationals aware of threat Braves pose
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
Orlando, Fla. -- Tuesday was set to be the Nationals' first look at the Braves, who beefed up their lineup over the offseason and figure to be Washington's chief competition in the National League East.
Atlanta lost third baseman Chipper Jones to retirement and utility man Martin Prado to the D-backs, but added outfielder Justin Upton in that trade with Arizona and his brother, B.J., via free agency.
"I think Atlanta, their history has been great," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "They've always had good young players coming along. I thought the last couple years, they had a strong left-handed presence in their lineup and I thought they always needed a little more right-handed presence in the lineup and they certainly did that with the two Upton boys, so I think their lineup is much more balanced."
The Nationals finished four games ahead of the Braves in the division last season, and the Braves went on to lose to the Cardinals in the one-game Wild Card playoff. Washington won the season series, 10-8, and outscored Atlanta, 84-69, on the year.
They'll meet six times this spring in Grapefruit League action.
"I don't look at anybody as a weak sister," Johnson said of the NL East. "Obviously, Philadelphia and Atlanta, with what they've done over the last decade, you have to say those are the teams you've got to beat in your division. We had our problems with the Marlins last year. I look at all of them as tough competitors."
Detwiler happy to get in work before Classic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was especially important for the Nationals to get Tuesday's game in under cloudy skies, particularly so left-hander Ross Detwiler could see his first game action of the spring.
Detwiler could have thrown a side session in the cage or back in Viera had Tuesday's game against the Braves been rained out, but with a roster spot on Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the Nats want him to see competition before he departs on March 4.
Detwiler is scheduled to throw again for the Nats on March 3 and then likely debut for Team USA on March 9 in pool play against Italy in Phoenix.
"Any time if you try to set a schedule in stone they're gonna mess with it," Detwiler joked. "You can't ever have the mentality that it's gonna get canceled. You've got to be ready for whatever time they tell you the game's gonna start. If you ever have in the back of your mind it might get canceled, you kind of let down a little bit and might not have as good of stuff."
Detwiler tossed 2 2/3 innings against the Braves, surrendering two runs on five hits while striking out two. He did not walk a batter, and was pleased with the outing, considering the lineup Atlanta brought out on Tuesday that included Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.
"You saw the lineup they put out there today," Detwiler said. "I could have been embarrassed pretty easily. I think this helped me out a lot, seeing a lot of their top guys. It makes you really focus on keeping the ball down, because any one of them can hit the ball a mile."
Detwiler said he threw eight of his 14 first pitches for strikes, something he focused on heading into the outing.
"I really wanted to focus on first-pitch strikes and throwing a little offspeed," Detwiler said. "I think I threw about eight offspeed pitches, not sure how many for strikes, but some of them felt pretty good coming out."
Sliding remains last hurdle for recovering Ramos
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has just one thing left on his to-do list before the Nationals feel he's adequately prepared for Spring Training action: sliding.
Ramos, working his way back from tearing his right ACL in May of last season, says his knee has improved from about 80 to 95 percent since he arrived at camp, and has been doing just about everything save for playing in games. His workload has continued to increase, as he began to catch bullpens on back-to-back days, blocked balls and continued to hit.
"I said he's game ready for the last week, but what do I know?" said manager Davey Johnson. "But there's no major hurry … except that he missed all of last year and didn't play winter ball. I wanted to get him swinging the bat a little bit. But he's swinging the heck out of it in BP. I like his stroke."
Ramos, who did not make the trip to Orlando for Washington's game against the Braves, said he hoped to slide Tuesday, and see game action by mid-March. Johnson has remained confident throughout camp that Ramos will be on the Opening Day roster, but Ramos will likely still need time before he can move into the regular starting role he held before the injury.
"He's very comfortable in his own skin," Johnson said. "I'd rather be on the cautious side with him before he gets involved. He feels like he's close, but if we get the doctors on the same page, I'll be ready to let him go run out there."
Ramos will likely begin his game action as a designated hitter before stepping behind the plate.
"I would be excited for that," Ramos said. "I will be very happy to be in those white lines. I'm waiting for that moment."
• Johnson said infielder Chad Tracy has recovered from his nagging right shoulder issue, and should be back in the lineup on Wednesday against the Marlins. Tracy took Monday off and said he felt fine on Tuesday after being hit by a pitch against the Marlins on Sunday.
• Micah Owings will need a few more days to recover from a sore left wrist. He played all nine innings against the Mets on Saturday, but wasn't entirely sure how the soreness came about.
• First baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Jayson Werth are expected to make their Grapefruit League debuts at home on Wednesday against the Marlins. Werth is in the lineup batting third and playing right field, while LaRoche is hitting cleanup and playing first.