KISSIMMEE, Fla. — One day after manager Davey Johnson worried that Henry Rodriguez was dealing with some inflammation in his right elbow, the reliever traveled with the Washington Nationals to Kissimmee and will pitch against the Houston Astros on Monday.
Rodriguez, who had a bone chip removed from his elbow in August, has come along a little slower than the other pitchers in camp. As a power pitcher, his command has been a topic of conversation again this spring, and the soreness seemed foreboding.
"It doesn't bother him to throw," Johnson said Monday. "It just bothers him stretching. They do a lot of stuff in [the training room] when they're stretching, so he was sore. Every time I go in there, they stretch me and I'm sore. I computed that in, and he says he's fine."
Johnson has been working Rodriguez and Drew Storen more than the other relievers in camp, part of his plan to help bring his power arms along before the season, so he was not surprised when Rodriguez complained of some soreness.
It appears, however, that it is nothing serious.
Johnson plans to use Rodriguez in at least two, possibly three, of the Nationals' remaining five games. The hope is the more he's used, the sharper he will become, and the easier it will be for him to harness his blazing fastball.
To this point, Rodriguez has pitched in seven games. He's thrown 6 2/3 innings, given up two hits and walked seven batters. He's allowed four earned runs.
If he's healthy, he still has a spot on the roster.
"He missed half the season and then missed winter ball," Johnson said. "A lot of that is just catch-up. And a power arm, it takes longer to get to where you've built up what I call a base so you feel like you can throw maximum speed without maximum effort.
"A lot of times it takes all of spring for them to get there, and consequently their command suffers. But I think he's a lot closer."
Young to make decision after start
Chris Young, who pitched Monday night for the Nationals against the Astros, has an out clause in his contract that he can decide to exercise by Tuesday.
Young has made it fairly clear that he will opt out of his contract if he can find a major league job. Right now, with their rotation full and Young not the type of pitcher who can work out of the bullpen, the Nationals simply do not have one for him.
"I don't blame him for that," Johnson said. "I thought that was the story all along."
If Young chooses to stay with the Nationals and go to Triple-A, the team will owe him a $100,000 retention bonus. He would be their primary insurance if an injury were to arise in the starting rotation. Without Young, the first options for a spot start would be long relievers Zach Duke and Craig Stammen.
Around the horn
The Nationals have their pitching set so that Stephen Strasburg will pitch Opening Day, Gio Gonzalez will follow him April 3, Jordan Zimmermann will fall in line behind him, and Dan Haren and Ross Detwiler will round out the rotation. Haren and Detwiler will likely throw extended side sessions in Washington this weekend to remain sharp between their final starts of spring training and their first starts of the season. ... Four of seven writers from Sports Illustrated picked the Nationals to win the World Series in their preseason predictions. All seven had them winning the National League East.
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