3/12/2014 7:58 P.M. ET
Williams challenges, but call upheld
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Manager Matt Williams decided to take advantage of instant replay during a 10-9 loss to the Astros on Wednesday afternoon.
In the top of the sixth inning, with a runner on first, no outs and the Nationals leading, 9-4, Jose Lobaton hit into a double play. Erick Dalton, the Nationals' coordinator of advance scouting and video, relayed to bench coach Randy Knorr via walkie talkie that the play was close. Knorr then communicated the information to Williams, who went to first-base umpire Ryan Blackney to challenge the call.
"Erick called. It was the perfect time. You don't know if you are going to get another chance," Williams said. "That play is at first. I went directly to the first-base umpire to let him know that we would like to [challenge the call]."
As soon as Lobaton touched first, he thought he was safe. At first he was mad, because he knew it was his final at-bat of the game, then Williams told him to stay at first.
"I was like, 'Why?'" Lobaton said following the game.
"Because we appealed [the call]. We challenged [it]," was Williams' reply.
"I was like, 'Really? What is that? Oh, OK. I got you,'" Lobaton said.
The umpires checked the replay, and after 45 seconds the call was confirmed by replay official Toby Basner.
"It's our first time. We get a few more times during spring to create some different situations and see what we could come up with," Williams said.
An inning later, the Astros had a call overturned in their favor. With two outs and Jerry Blevins on the mound, Delino DeShields Jr. hit the ball between short and third. Shortstop Jose Lozada grabbed the ball and appeared to throw DeShields out, bit Astros manager Bo Porter challenged the call, which was reversed. The Astros would go on to score on an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez.
"We're in the third-base dugout, and I was able to have a clean look as Delino hit the base before the ball hit the first baseman's glove, so I had a pretty good idea when I left the dugout that he was safe," Porter said. "Our replay crew, they did a great job of getting it down to the dugout right away that he was safe, so it's definitely a benefit to have that late in the game."
Each team is allowed one challenge during the game. If a team is right, it gets another challenge toward the end of the game. If the challenge is lost, the team does not get another.
Livan to make retirement official
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Coach and team ambassador Livan Hernandez is going to file his retirement papers on Thursday, officially ending his career as a player.
The last time Hernandez played in the Majors was 2012, with the Braves and Brewers. He rejoined the Nationals this January and participated in NatsFest, and this spring has been coaching Nationals pitchers.
"This is the right time to do it," Hernandez said. "I had a lot of stuff on my mind. I was going to wait for the right time."
Hernandez declined to say what he will be doing with the Nationals after Spring Training, as the two are still talking about his future; he is confident that the team will be successful this season.
"I already have plans to do some stuff. I'll let you know before Spring Training is over," he said. "I'm going to be very excited. I want to follow the team. I want to keep doing what I'm doing. It's going to be nice. This team has all the potential to be in the playoffs and a chance to win the World Series this year.
"We have starting pitchers, relievers, we have a power team, we have a fast team. We have to put it together [from the first day of the season]. You will be more comfortable when you get to September, where you have a five-, six-game lead, whatever. You don't want to be behind the first-place team."
Hernandez, 39, is one of the most popular pitchers in franchise history. He was a workhorse during his time with the Expos/Nats, often among the league leaders in innings, and was considered the leader of the staff. He also has the distinction of throwing the first pitch in Nationals history and making an All-Star appearance with the club in 2005.
The Nats dealt him to the D-backs before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2006; he returned in August 2009.
He played in the big leagues for 17 years and won 178 games. He is best remembered for being named World Series MVP in 1997, while with the Marlins, and for guiding the Giants and D-backs to the postseason in 2002 and 2007, respectively.
"I had a lot of fun," he said. "I love what I do now. I'll try to get better and teach the young kids about the game."
Soreness keeps Zimmerman from starting on Wednesday
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman had been scheduled to play against the Astros on Wednesday but was scratched because of "body soreness." Will Rhymes started in his place.
Manager Matt Williams didn't say when Zimmerman will return to action, indicating that Zimmerman experienced the soreness while working out at first base on Monday and Tuesday. It's still not known when Zimmerman will play first base in a game; Williams wants to make sure he is comfortable there.
"He has been working at first, he is doing other things, turning different ways than he is used to turning. He is good, though," Williams said.
Desmond sits with cut on finger
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Shortstop Ian Desmond had been scheduled to bat third against the Astros on Wednesday but was scratched because of an injured right pinkie.
Desmond cut the finger while taking ground balls during practice, according to manager Matt Williams, and is expected to miss a couple of games. If this were the regular season, he would be in the lineup, Williams said.
"He was taking grounders today, and a ball came up and hit his pinkie on his throwing hand," Williams said. "He's fine, but we just decided to hold him out today and not push it. But he's good. Just a bad hop taking grounders during BP."
Nationals make second round of cuts
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The Nationals have optioned left-hander Felipe Rivero to Double-A Harrisburg and re-assigned right-hander A.J. Cole to Minor League camp, with manager Matt Williams saying there weren't enough innings for them with the Major League team.
Rivero, who was part of the four-player trade that sent right-hander Nathan Karns to the Rays, allowed two runs in four innings. Cole, who was hoping to make the team as a fifth starter, didn't allow a run in 6 2/3 innings. He is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game on Thursday and will likely start the season with Triple-A Syracuse.
"The plan is for them to start, so we need to increase their innings," Williams said.
• Left-hander Sammy Solis hasn't pitched since March 2 because of back spasms, and there is no timetable for when he will appear in a game.
• Left-hander Michael Gonzalez is scheduled to pitch his first Spring Training game with the Nationals on Friday, against the Tigers.
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.