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“The ball is rolling,” he said smiling. “That’s the biggest thing for me mentally - little mental challenges every day. You get one little thing done a day, like doing all your shoulder exercises. Minor victories.”

Back on the offensive side, Mark DeRosa expects to miss a few more games before he’s ready to return from a strained left oblique muscle. He’s thankful the Nationals‘ fast start has enabled them to withstand this rash of injuries.

“It takes pressure off guys pressing,” he said. “It’s too early to panic from an offensive standpoint. It can turn on a dime. Guys can have one good week and everyone forgets.”

In the meantime, Johnson will continue to rely on and have confidence in the role players who are filling the lineup.

“If I didn’t think they were capable, I’d be really worried,” Johnson said. “I’d be champing at the bit for the trainers to make some miraculous cure. But it’s a long season, and every individual is important on this ballclub.”

Note: Stephen Strasburg was voted National League pitcher of the month for April. In five starts, he went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, an NL-best 34 strikeouts and only six walks. He began Wednesday with the second-lowest ERA among qualifying pitchers in the major leagues. Teammate Jordan Zimmerman (1-1, 1.33 ERA, 16 strikeouts, 2 walks) received votes.