3/10/2014 11:34 P.M. ET
Prospect Souza off to a hot start this spring
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right fielder Steven Souza Jr. is off to a good start this spring, going 7-for-21 (.333). He hit his first home run of the spring against the Astros on Monday night.
After the game, manager Matt Williams called Souza "a man" and said he has an understanding of the game. Souza can play all three outfield positions and first base, but Williams sees him as a right fielder.
"He is aggressive and he has been getting a lot of at-bats and playing a lot of defense," Williams said. "He wants to play every day, which is good. I have been impressed with his makeup -- first and foremost -- and the way he has played this spring has been great."
After starting strong, Gio labors in second inning
VIERA, Fla. -- It looked like Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez was going to have his best start of the spring on Monday evening against the Astros. He struck out the first five hitters he faced. Suddenly, Gonzalez had a tough time getting the third out in the second inning.
After allowing an infield single to George Springer, Carlos Corporan swung at a 1-0 pitch and hit a two-run homer to give Houston a 2-1 lead. Four batters later, the bases were loaded and Gonzalez finally was able to get that third out when Jonathan Villar flied out to center fielder Denard Span to end the threat. That turned out to be the end of Goznalez's night as the Astros won the game, 7-4. Gonzalez was scheduled to pitch one more inning.
Gonzalez felt he should have been out of the second inning when Springer's grounder tipped his glove and second baseman Zach Walters was unable to get Springer at first.
"If I jumped a little higher, we would have gotten him out. [Then I would] start the next inning off from the windup," Gonzalez said. "You kind of question it because it could have gone both ways -- Zach and myself. It's just one of those things. It's a tough break. It just stirred the pot."
Manager Matt Williams didn't seem concerned about Gonzalez's outing. The skipper went so far as to say Gonzalez was aggressive and pounded the strike zone.
"I thought he threw really well. He threw fastballs in to the right-handed hitters. He let one over [the plate to Corporan]. That happens," Williams said. "He threw curveballs for strikes. He threw fastballs from both sides of the plate. I thought he was really good."
Soriano feels fine despite being hit hard vs. Astros
VIERA, Fla. -- In his second game of the spring, Nationals closer Rafael Soriano was hit hard, allowing five runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Astros on Monday night.
After striking out George Springer to start the sixth inning, Soriano couldn't retire the next five hitters. Jonathan Villar highlighted the scoring with a three-run double.
Manager Matt Williams said he wasn't worried about the results from Soriano at this point. The skipper is more worried about how Soriano feels physically. Apparently, Soriano said he felt fine, and that was the only thing that was good about the outing.
"He is going to get a few outings this spring and I want him to progress arm strength wise every time," Williams said.
Williams is confident in Carroll's abilities
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals infielder Jamey Carroll is batting .133 (2-for-15) this spring, but that doesn't seem to matter to manager Matt Williams. The skipper pointed out that Carroll can do the little things to make a team better.
As Williams pointed out, Carroll knows how to advance a runner and he gets on base often. In fact, Carroll leads the team in walks with five.
"He is a pro. He knows what he is doing," Williams said. "He knows how to play the game, he knows what the situation of the game will dictate. He knows how to go about doing it. I shy away from saying the little things, but they are important things for your club. He knows what to do and how to do it."
Williams knows what Carroll brings to the table after watching his previous team -- the D-backs -- face Carroll over the years. Carroll is on a Minor League contract and is looking to make the Nationals as a backup infielder. Carroll started Monday's game at shortstop against the Astros and went 0-for-2.
"As far as Jamey goes, I know exactly what he can do," Williams said. "I know what his game is and what he could do. He can play three infield spots. He can do all the things on the baseball diamond you would need. I don't expect him to hit the ball over the fence, but you can hit-and-run with him, move a runner, lay down a sacrifice bunt. He can drive a run in. He understands the game, he is a smart baserunner. All those things -- I've seen it for years and years."
• Nationals right-hander Doug Fister will throw on flat ground on Tuesday. He missed a start last week because of inflammation in his elbow. There is no timetable on when Fister will pitch in a game.
• Nationals right-hander Ross Ohlendorf threw on flat ground on Monday. It marked the first time he was able to throw a baseball since he suffered back spasms on Thursday against the Braves. Ohlendorf will throw again Tuesday. After that, he most likely will have a bullpen session before he gets back into a game.
• Left-hander Mike Gonzalez threw a bullpen session on Sunday and will pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday. After that, Gonzalez will most likely pitch in a Major League game.
"I think he is prepared. We'll see how he comes out of [the Minor League game]," Williams said.
• Walters started at second base against the Astros on Monday, and Williams admitted that Walters was nervous about playing the position. Walters has spent most of his career as a shortstop and third baseman. In the third inning, Walters turned a double play on a ball hit by designated hitter Chris Carter. Walters will get another chance to play second in the next couple of days.
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.