The Washington Times - March 13, 2011, 07:05AM

JUPITER, Fla. — The Nationals are just finishing up their batting practice at Roger Dean Stadium in preparation for their 1:05 p.m. game against the Marlins where right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will make his third start of the spring.

Zimmermann, who missed almost all of 2010 recovering from Tommy John surgery, is having a strong camp and will be looking to build on his first two appearances of the spring. In six innings he’s allowed just five hits and three walks, striking out five and not allowing a single run.

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This will be my first live look at Zimmermann so I’m interested to see how he looks and where he keeps his velocity throughout the start.

A few other things to watch today:

Henry Rodriguez: Rodriguez, who came to the Nationfals this offseason from Oakland as part of the trade for Josh Willingham, had his arrival in camp delayed by visa issues and will be making his debut today.

The right-hander has a live arm — one that has been reportedly clocked at over 100 m.p.h. — and the Nationals are looking forward to seeing what he can do in a game situation. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said despite his late arrival this spring that Rodriguez did enough throwing this offseason to come to camp ready to go.

“We’ve been conservative with him,” Riggleman said. “I think a few appearances, hopefully, will show us that he’s going to be throwing enough strikes and get his delivery down. There’s a lot of things you need in game situations — fielding your position, covering first base, holding runners — things that you don’t want him to go into the season without experiencing, so we’re cutting the time pretty close.”

The Nationals are expecting big things from the 24-year-old right-hander, though, and a strong — if abbreviated — camp could put him in contention for the as yet-unnamed closer role with Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett.

Center field battle: Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel, the three main competitors for the starting spot in center field, are all in the lineup today. Morgan will be playing center while Bernadina slots in at DH and Ankiel in left.

While certainly one spring training game isn’t going to make or break either of the three’s chances to earn the spot, their performances from here on out are likely going to be evaluated with a discerning eye.

All three are different players, as Riggleman pointed out this morning, with Morgan playing the role of a speedy leadoff hitter, Ankiel more of a power threat and Bernadina as a mix between the two who has speed, can play the field and has power potential.

“We came into the spring as Nyjer is our center fielder, so that’s what we’re looking at,” Riggleman said. “If Ankiel or Bernadina just emerges to the point that we think of them over in center (that could change).”

With all three competitors being left-handed, Riggleman acknowledged that the team does not want to consider Morgan as a platoon player but if Bernadina or Ankiel were to get more playing time, the Nationals would also need to rely on the right-handed Jerry Hairston Jr. more often as well.

And a few other notes:

Ramirez shut down:  Rule-5 draft pick Elvin Ramirez has been shut down for a few days with an arm issue, making it increasingly likely that, without amply time to evaluate him, the Nationals will end up returning the right-hander to the Mets.

“It’s almost impossible (to evaluate him),” Riggleman said. “If we can’t get him on the mound, we can’t evaluate him and I don’t see him getting on the mound for another week.”

Riggleman couldn’t pinpoint Ramirez’s issue but said simply that the reliever feels good one day and bad the next.

No timetable for Wang: Thought it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, Riggleman said today that there’s “no way” Chien-Ming Wang will be ready for Opening Day.

The right-hander hasn’t appeared in a major league game since 2009, struggling with foot and shoulder problems, and hasn’t made consistent strides forward this spring to enable the Nationals to put a timetable on his return.

“I’m just waiting for somebody to come and tell me Wang’s ready to go,” Riggleman said. “When Steve McCatty and the training staff tells me there’s not only progress but consistent progress over a couple of weeks, then we could think about something but, until then, it can’t get too high or low about a bullpen session.”

Here are the lineups for today’s game:

 

Nyjer Morgan CF
Alex Cora SS
Jayson Werth RF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Rick Ankiel LF
Roger Bernadina DH
Danny Espinosa 2B
Jesus Flores C
Alberto Gonzalez 3B
— Jordan Zimmermann P

Marlins

Chris Coghlan DH
Omar Infante 2B
Hanley Ramirez SS
Gaby Sanchez 1B
Logan Morrison LF
Donnie Murphy 3B
Dewayne Wise CF
Bryan Petersen RF
Brad Davis C
— Ricky Nolasco P

Nolasco, the Marlins No. 2 starter last season, is making his first start of the spring.