03/29/2013 7:15 PM ET
Davey settles on Ramos to catch Nats' opener
By Andrew Simon / Special to MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Catcher Wilson Ramos' comeback from a serious right knee injury took a major step forward before Friday's 4-2 exhibition loss to the Yankees, when manager Davey Johnson informed Ramos he will start Monday's 1:05 p.m. ET regular-season opener against the Marlins at Nationals Park.
Ramos and Kurt Suzuki are slated to split time behind the plate this year, but Ramos got the Opening Day nod after hitting .353 with two home runs in Grapefruit League play. He hit .216 in 18 games last year before a May 12 tear of his medial meniscus ended his season and required two surgeries.
"With the progress he's made rehabbing after May -- being out all year and rehabbing hard -- he's looked great all spring behind the dish," Johnson said in announcing the decision after the game. "He's bounced around better than I've seen him in the years I've been here. It's kind of a carrot for hard work. But I look at both of them as No. 1 catchers."
Johnson also wanted to have Suzuki catch former Oakland A's teammate Gio Gonzalez in the second game of the season, on Wednesday night.
Johnson informed Ramos of his decision during batting practice on Friday, before he went 0-for-2 while playing the first five innings.
"I'm very happy right now to be behind the plate for Opening Day," Ramos said. "I'm excited and waiting for that moment."
With both catchers likely to see significant action this season, the 25-year-old Ramos is looking at the veteran Suzuki as more than simply competition for playing time.
"I know he can teach me a lot," Ramos said of Suzuki. "He's got more experience than me at this level, so I've got a lot of things to learn from him. Now, I will open my ears and try to learn everything he can teach me."
Final outing helps Rodriguez make Nats' roster
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals settled on their 25-man roster for Monday's 1:05 p.m. ET regular-season opener against the Marlins after reliever Henry Rodriguez locked down the final spot with a strong performance in Friday afternoon's 4-2 exhibition loss to the Yankees.
Manager Davey Johnson confirmed that the right-hander has made the team over lefty J.C. Romero following the game, in which Rodriguez tossed a scoreless sixth inning. Romero didn't pitch but was one of three extra players the Nationals brought to the game, along with infielder Will Rhymes and righty Christian Garcia, who is on the disabled list. Romero now figures to begin the season at Triple-A Syracuse instead of serving as Washington's second southpaw in the bullpen behind Zach Duke.
Romero was providing insurance in case Rodriguez couldn't show he was ready for Opening Day. Rodriguez's 2012 season ended in August, when he had surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Right forearm tightness delayed his debut this spring, and the 26-year-old flamethrower closed Grapefruit League play with 10 walks in 8 2/3 innings.
"If he's healthy, he's going to pitch," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Rodriguez before the game.
Johnson emphasized that despite Rodriguez's bouts of wildness -- he walked 6.8 batters per nine innings last season -- he still believes in a pitcher who averages about 98 mph with his fastball.
"He's still a great talent, and I'm certainly not anywhere close to giving up on him," Johnson said.
"If he's healthy, he's got three off-the-charts big league pitches."
Rodriguez did issue a walk in Friday's appearance but easily retired the other three batters he faced and threw nine of his 14 pitches for strikes.
Harper, Werth playing through nicks
WASHINGTON -- Nationals outfielders Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth were both in the starting lineup and played six innings in Friday's 4-2 exhibition loss to the Yankees, fending off some dings and dents.
Harper has jammed his left thumb twice in the past week while fighting off inside pitches, including on Tuesday against the Marlins. The left fielder took Wednesday off but played three innings on Thursday against the Mets, going 1-for-1 with a single and a sacrifice fly.
On Friday, Harper singled in his first at-bat against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte, who struck out the star outfielder three times in four hitless at-bats last season. Harper finished 1-for-3 on Friday.
Before the game, manager Davey Johnson didn't display much concern about Harper's readiness for Monday's regular-season opener against the Marlins, considering the outfielder hit .484 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in Grapefruit League play.
"Well, he's swinging the bat so poorly," Johnson deadpanned. "They don't look like jam shots that he's hitting. He's going to have two days off [after Friday], and we'll be monitoring him pretty close."
Werth was hit by a pitch on his left elbow on Wednesday and sat out Thursday's Grapefruit League finale. Johnson said the right fielder is dealing with a stinger on his "funny bone." He finished Friday's game 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
"I'm sure he's going to be fine," Johnson said. "It's probably just the cold weather stiffening it up."
• Johnson expressed no concern about veteran right-hander Dan Haren, who dealt with back and hip problems last year and went 0-4 with a 6.39 ERA in six Grapefruit League starts. Haren allowed 14 earned runs and seven homers across 16 1/3 innings in his final three outings.
"I never put anything on what happens in spring," Johnson said. "I look at where I think their arm strength is, how they handled and came back from each [outing], how they progressed. I liked how he was throwing the ball at the end of spring. I think he liked how he was throwing the ball."
• Closer Rafael Soriano, one of the Nationals' big offseason acquisitions, pitched in only seven Grapefruit League games, posting an 8.10 ERA in 6 2/3 innings. But Johnson believes the righty is ready for Opening Day, a year after saving 42 games for the Yankees.
"I wish he had another one or two appearances, but he knows what he's doing," Johnson said. "He'll be ready."
• Johnson called third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's good health "probably the most gratifying thing this spring." Zimmerman dealt with right shoulder problems that restricted his throwing last year, but offseason surgery cleaned up those issues.
• Reliever Drew Storen received plenty of cheers when he entered Friday's game in the top of the ninth inning and produced a scoreless frame. It was his first game at Nationals Park since he was charged with a blown save and the loss in Game 5 of last year's National League Division Series against the Cardinals.
"It's like riding an old bike, to get back and get to pitch here at Nationals Park," Storen said. "It was fun. I'm really glad, actually, we got the exhibition in. We get to come up, and it's not the same pitching in the stadiums before that, so to get back and pitch in front of the home crowd and in your home stadium, it's great."
Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.