3/6/2014 10:02 P.M. ET
Williams not worried about Rendon, Espinosa
By Joe Morgan / Special to MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Through five games this spring, second basemen Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon were not getting results at the plate. The duo was hitless in 17 at-bats, striking out a combined six times. The only time either reached base was on March 3, when Yankees pitcher David Robertson hit Espinosa with a pitch.
Manager Matt Williams responded by sticking Rendon in the leadoff spot and Espinosa in the two-hole on Thursday. The move paid off.
Rendon finished 2-for-3, and Espinosa reached base twice -- singling in his first at-bat and taking a 97-mph heater from Braves closer Craig Kimbrel on the toes.
Despite the early struggles of the two second basemen, there is not much concern with either.
"I feel good," Espinosa said. "I feel nice and easy. Balanced swings, I'm taking pitches balanced. I'm not lunging. I feel under control. I don't feel like I'm swinging hard."
Strikeouts have magnified Rendon's slow start. Pitchers fanned the 23-year-old six times in his first eight at-bats, including Braves starter Julio Teheran in the first inning of Thursday night's game.
But Williams is not concerned with numbers right now.
"He's been good," Williams said of Rendon. "He hit the ball really well his first few games and had a little tough one the other day, but that's OK. That happens in spring. ... He'll be fine. He's right on track, right where we want him to be."
When asked what he has focused on doing at the plate this spring, Espinosa said the word relax six times.
"In my head, just to tell myself to trust myself," Espinosa added. "Don't try to go out and get a pitch. ... Stay under control and trust it rather than trying to go out and create. That's what I'm really trying to stay focused on."
Rendon batted .265 with seven home runs, 35 RBIs and 40 runs in 98 games as a rookie in 2013. After a brief stint in the Majors in late April and early May, he was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg for good on June 4.
Espinosa batted .158 in 44 games with the Nationals last season before he was in 75 games with the Chiefs.
Ohlendorf exits spring debut with back spasms
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ross Ohlendorf's Spring Training debut on Thursday night ended with yet another frustrating injury, this time spasms in his lower back. Washington's training staff will re-evaluate the 31-year-old hurler on Friday morning.
The injury is unrelated to the side injury he dealt with earlier this spring.
"He said he felt it [while facing] the first batter, and then it just got progressively worse," manager Matt Williams said following Thursday night's 3-2 loss to the Braves. "So we'll see how he's doing tomorrow."
Ohlendorf left the field at Champion Stadium with a trainer after facing four batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After dealing with pain in his side and a finger issue this spring, Ohlendorf was finally making his first outing. Working in relief, he surrendered a run on three singles and a walk. He did not record an out.
Ohlendorf's unfortunate rash of injuries is keeping him from building on a strong season in 2013 as a valuable arm both in the rotation and out of the bullpen. The right-hander finished the 2013 season with a 4-1 record and 3.28 ERA in 16 appearances, including seven starts. He recorded four quality starts and a 1.16 WHIP -- his lowest since posting a 1.11 WHIP in six appearances with the Yankees in 2007.
Nationals expect Gonzalez to arrive on Friday
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez, who signed a Minor League deal on Tuesday, is expected to join the Nationals on Friday in Viera, Fla.
"He's due today to report tomorrow," manager Matt Williams said before Thursday night's Grapefruit League game against the Braves at Champion Stadium.
Gonzalez, 35, will compete for a spot in the bullpen. He has been throwing on his own this spring, and the Nationals aim to evaluate his progress in a bullpen session on Friday.
"He said he's ready to go," Williams said. "He's been throwing. He's throwing bullpen [sessions], things like that. I can't imagine he's faced any live hitters lately, so that may be part of the process. We'll check with him when he gets here and see where he's at."
Feeling better, Kobernus travels to Lake Buena Vista
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When the Nationals traveled to Champion Stadium to play the Braves on Tuesday, outfielder Jeff Kobernus was too ill to go with them.
Two days later, Kobernus joined his teammates for the return trip, though manager Matt Williams was not sure before the game whether he would play.
"He's feeling a lot better," Williams said. "He could play. We'll see how he reacts after [batting practice] and all that stuff in the cage."
Kobernus did end up seeing action, going 1-for-1 with a single off the bench.
Kobernus, ranked as the team's No. 7 prospect by MLB.com, is one of a few Nationals who have dealt with flu-like symptoms this spring, a list that includes infielder Zach Walters, and outfielders Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore.
Walters did not travel to Lake Buena Vista for Thursday's game despite participating in workouts earlier in the day.
"We left him home because he's in Day 2 of it," Williams said. "Everybody else seems to be good."
Joe Morgan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.