The Washington Times - March 2, 2013, 04:51PM

JUPITER, Fla. — Drew Storen pitched the eighth inning Saturday afternoon, facing the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time since the night of Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

He struck out the first two batters he faced, and then felt his mechanics falling out of whack a little, “leaking a little bit against the lefties.” He loaded the bases. He coaxed a pop out. He moved on.

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He did not, he said, think once about the last time he’d faced the Cardinals.

“No,” Storen said. “If it felt weird and was going through my head, then I shouldn’t be out there. That has nothing to do with it.”

What it was, however, was the right-hander’s third outing of the spring. It was a time for him to work on what he needs to, and not worry about the playoffs or the past or even the hitters standing in the box. In that regard, Storen said he was “happy with everything.”

“It’s just a matter of trying to stay consistent,” he said. “Which is part of the developmental process early on.”

“He knows what he’s working on and what he’s trying to do,” said manager Davey Johnson, who thought Storen might be overanalyzing himself a bit too much. “He’s got an assortment of stuff, more than anything, it’s just getting a little feel, getting his arm strength up.”

Storen has been getting a lot of work early in the spring, which is a plus, he said. When Storen was rehabbing from surgery to remove a bone chip in his right elbow last season, he learned a lot about himself and about the proper ways to ramp up to being game ready. Getting the opportunity to pitch often in the spring, even when he’s not at max-effort, is going to help him.

“As you saw last year when I came back, it takes me a minute to get the power back,” Storen said. “Physically, I feel great. I feel like the ball is coming out really well, especially for the effort level that I’m throwing at. I’m happy with it. And I’m happy with throwing a lot, too.

“Every time, you just kind of add a little bit more to it and let your body kinda respond to it. It’s a process. You take a step forward each time and before you know it you’re back to where you were.”

– The Nationals’ power arrived en masse on Saturday when they hit three home runs and two doubles against the St. Louis Cardinals, including two off of Adam Wainwright. Anthony Rendon, Chris Marrero and Ian Desmond all homered while Kurt Suzuki and Rendon were responsible for the doubles.

It was a windy day at Roger Dean Stadium, with it blowing out much of the afternoon. But Rendon struck his home run well and it hit about two-thirds of the way up the batter’s eye. Marrero and Desmond hit their home runs to right field. 

“We hit the ball hard,” Johnson said. “Now we’ve got the regulars coming in (on Sunday), they’ve got something to live up to.”

Several Nationals’ hitters have been putting up big numbers early this spring. Bryce Harper improved to 7-for-13 on Friday night with his first home run of the spring, Desmond is now hitting .545 on the spring (6-for-11), and Rendon is 7-for-16 with three doubles and two home runs in seven games. 

Rendon, who missed most of the 2011 season after fracturing his ankle in April, continues to impress the Nationals, who are at the point where they simply want to see him get playing time in the minor leagues. He will not break camp with them, but his time in the majors doesn’t seem all that far away.

“He’s just an impressive player,” Johnson said. “Whether in the field or at the plate. He’s got a good, quick bat, good feel for the strike zone, doesn’t really chase a lot. He just needs to go play.”

– Ryan Perry showed improved stamina in his second appearance of the spring, throwing three scoreless innings in which he allowed just two hits. In his first outing, Perry pitched 1 2/3 innings and Johnson said the right-hander told pitching coach Steve McCatty that he was basically exhausted at that point.

Johnson was pleased with how Perry, a former reliever the Nationals are converting to a starter, rebounded.

“He didn’t run out of gas after 16 pitches,” Johnson said. “He looked a lot better, threw the ball good. Keeping it down, he looked like he was enjoying it out there, that was good.”

– Ryan Zimmerman is expected to make his spring debut on Sunday, serving as the Nationals’ designated hitter. 

– Wilson Ramos was scheduled to slide on Saturday for the first time since his knee surgeries last summer and should be cleared to play in games soon thereafter.

– Will Ohman is on the schedule to pitch at some point on Sunday. It will be the left-hander’s first appearance of the spring after dealing with a hamstring issue recently.