The Washington Times - March 28, 2013, 01:20PM

VIERA, Fla. — Barring an injury that forces them to alter their plans, the Nationals will send left-hander J.C. Romero to Triple-A Syracuse after the team’s exhibition game on Friday in D.C., manager Davey Johnson said Thursday.

With Romero in Syracuse, the last spot in the Nationals bullpen would then go to Henry Rodriguez — as has been the Nationals’ plan from the start of the spring. 

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The only leeway here is that Johnson did allow for the caveat of “barring an injury.” The possibility exists, until roster have to be set prior to Opening Day, that the Nationals could make the final decision to start Rodriguez on the disabled list. 

Rodriguez, who underwent surgery to remove a bone chip and shave down a bone spur in his right elbow last August, was still experiencing elbow soreness early in the spring. That set his schedule back and, Johnson has indicated, may be what’s contributed to his wildness at this late stage of the spring.

“I like the progress,” Johnson said Thursday morning. “I’ve been pretty clear that power arms take longer, especially in Henry’s case. He missed the last half of the year and didn’t have winter ball. A lot of times, that’s a psychological thing to overcome… It takes them a little longer to get a good feel. The primary concern is stretching their arm out, and we’re going through that with Henry.”

Romero was signed last Friday and, at the time, general manager Mike Rizzo said it was not realistic for him to be on the Opening Day roster. Romero has understood from the start that going to Triple-A would be the likely course for him.

But the fact that the Nationals are bringing him to D.C., and Rodriguez’s inconsistency this spring, seem to indicate he would be the next man in line should Rodriguez be unable to start the season.

For now, Rodriguez is on the team and Romero will be in Triple-A.

“That’s where we’re at right now,” Johnson said. “Henry’s going to pitch (on Friday).”

Asked if Rodriguez may need a little more time to be fully ready, Johnson said it was possible.

“That’s where we’re at,” he said. “But I think he’s closer. He’s making progress. I mean, even with his wildness, his numbers are still pretty good compared to everybody else.”

As Johnson said on Wednesday, Micah Owings and Carlos Rivero will report to minor league camp after Thursday’s game.