3/2/2014 6:58 P.M. ET
Williams not concerned with Espinosa's start
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Matt Williams said he isn't concerned about infielder Danny Espinosa, who is 0-for-5 in two games to start the spring. In fact, Williams went so far as to say that he likes Espinosa's approach at the plate.
Take the bottom of the fourth inning of Saturday's 16-15 victory over the Braves: Williams loved that Espinosa went with the pitch and hit the ball hard to shortstop Aldrelton Simmons, who ended up getting a force play.
"The result wasn't good, but we are not looking for that right now," Williams said. "It's about the approach. I need him to get reps and make sure he is doing what he needs to do. We will move him around in different spots and see what he does."
Espinosa is coming off the worst season of his career and spent most of the season at Triple-A Syracuse. He struck out a combined 148 times in 471 at-bats for the Nationals and Chiefs.
Williams knows what it's like to come off a bad year. In 1992, Williams was a regular third baseman for the Giants when he had his worst season as an everyday player, hitting .227 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs. He bounced back in 1993 and finished sixth in the National League MVP voting. Williams was able to bounce back because he was able to relax and understood that he didn't have to do more than what he was capable of doing.
Williams is hoping that Espinosa can follow the same path.
"[Espinosa] has had success in the big leagues," Williams said. "He has hit balls over the fence. He certainly plays Gold Glove-caliber defense and he had a rough year. Those are the factors. It is undisputed. How do we move on from here is the point. My plan for him this spring is to give him a lot of at-bats, get him comfortable, get him feeling good about himself. His defense and his offense will allow him to go play."
Werth held out with right biceps strain
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Jayson Werth was scheduled to start his first game of the Spring against the Marlins on Sunday afternoon, but he was scratched because of a right biceps strain. He is listed as day to day and the injury is not considered serious.
Nate McLouth ended up playing right field, while Eury Perez started in center. Manager Matt Williams is hoping that Werth is back in the lineup within the next couple of days.
"No worries, it just precautionary," Williams said.
Meanwhile, outfielder Bryce Harper had a scheduled day off against the Marlins, but he was sent home early because of flu-like symptoms.
"He had a stomach issue, so we got him out of here," Williams said. "We made sure it didn't spread. He didn't feel real good this morning. He came in with a bad stomach."
Nats continue aggressiveness on bases
VIERA, Fla. -- Early in Spring Training, the Nationals have been aggressive on the bases under manager Matt Williams. Sunday's game was another example of how the skipper wants things done.
After he struck out and reached first on a wild pitch, shortstop Ian Desmond stole second base and then scored on a single by Wilson Ramos to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead over the Marlins.
"We want to get guys in motion. We have the ability to do that. We might as well use that weapon," Williams said. "It has been going good. We want to establish how we play. It won't happen every day, of course. We'll monitor everyone's legs and health and all that stuff. "
The Nationals have aggressive on defense as well. In Saturday's 16-15 victory over the Braves, the Nationals had the infield pulled in numerous times, but they were burned as the Braves scored their share of runs.
"We played the infield in so many times. We want to work on that. We want to do that type of stuff," Williams said.
Zimmerman to see work at first base
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is expected to play some games at first base this spring. Manager Matt Williams didn't say when that would happen, but first, Zimmerman has to get comfortable at the position.
Zimmerman continues to take grounders, pick balls out of the dirt and do footwork around the first-base bag.
Zimmerman could play first base during the regular season if there is a tough left-hander on the mound or Adam LaRoche needs a day off.
"It's not easy to switch. There are different responsibilities [at first]," Williams said. "That's part of the progression. We'll get through all that stuff, get him some innings over there and make sure he is comfortable."
Mattheus on mend from chest inflammation
VIERA, Fla. -- Reliever Ryan Mattheus hasn't been able to throw for more than a week because of chest inflammation, but he is feeling much better. He still needs Dr. Wiemi Douoguih and the team trainer to give him the clearance to throw.
On Sunday morning, Mattheus was seen throwing the medicine ball against the wall, which is a good sign.
"I feel real good. I feel like [the pain] is out of there pretty much. There is still a little lingering stuff," Mattheus said. "It's 100 times better when it first happened. It's going in the right direction. We have to wait and see when they clear me."
Mattheus started feeling pain after his bullpen session on Feb. 18 at the Minor League complex. While he was doing his conditioning program at the Minor League complex, Mattheus felt a little discomfort, but didn't feel it was alarming enough to call the trainer. Then Mattheus went to Space Coast Stadium to work on his upper body without any problems.
The next morning, however, it was uncomfortable for Mattheus to take deep breaths or to cough or sneeze. That's when he went to see the team trainers.
• Nationals infielder Zach Walters is off to a great start, going 5-for-5 with two RBIs. Last year, former manager Davey Johnson told Walters that he wanted to see him hit for power and Walters ended up with 29 home runs for Triple-A Syracuse. This year, manager Matt Williams would like Walters to hit for a high average and continue to hit home runs.
"Matt has a different dynamic. He talks about playing the game simple. That's something I'm trying to focus on," Walters said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.