The Washington Times - March 4, 2012, 11:28AM

VIERA, Fla. — A hellacious rainstorm whipped down the Space Coast this morning, sending winds up to 50 miles per hour and dropping temperatures to the middle 50s. The chill and wind remain, but Space Coast Stadium’s field appears in good shape for this afternoon’s Grapefruit League game between the Nationals and Astros.

Stephen Strasburg makes his spring debut for the Nationals and, as with the other starters, he won’t throw more than 45 pitches. If Strasburg doesn’t need many pitches through the first two innings, manager Davey Johnson won’t hesitate to send him out for a third.

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The poor weather recalls Strasburg’s return to the big leagues last September, when wind, rain and cold left a sparse crowd in the stands.

In other pregame news:

— First baseman Adam LaRoche (shoulder, ankle) will likely make his spring debut on Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

— Johnson will use a backup-laden lineup for Monday’s 6:05 p.m. game against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie when John Lannan starts. Rick Ankiel and Bryce Harper are the biggest names on the trip. The full lineup: Roger Bernadina LF, Steve Lombardozzi SS, Mark Teahen 3B, Chad Tracy 1B, Rick Ankiel CF, Bryce Harper RF, Jesus Flores C, Xavier Paul DH, Andres Blanco SS.

— Johnson doesn’t plan to play Michael Morse at first base during the spring, as he adjust to playing left field full-time. Morse spent 85 games at first last season.

— Jayson Werth starts in center today and Johnson professed confidence in Werth’s abilities at the position. “He showed last season he could do it,” Johnson said. “It’s not a tryout.” Werth’s size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) isn’t traditional for a center fielder, but played 19 games there last season and 123 games in his career.

And here are today’s lineups:

Houston Astros
Jordan Schafer, CF
Marwin Gonzalez, SS
Brian Bogusevic, RF
J.D. Martinez, LF
Fernando Martinez, DH
Matt Downs, 2B
Brett Wallace, 3B
Chris Johnson, 1B
Chris Snyder, C

J.A. Happ, SP

Washington Nationals
Ian Desmond, SS
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
Michael Morse, DH
Jayson Werth, CF
Mark DeRosa, 1B
Wilson Ramos, C
Jason Michaels, LF
Brett Carroll, RF

Stephen Strasburg, SP