- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

VIERA, Fla. — The Washington Nationals ticked off their final full day in Florida on Wednesday by moving one step closer to finalizing their 2013 roster.

After his team’s 11-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves, manager Davey Johnson made two stops in the clubhouse. First he informed Fernando Abad that he would not make the Nationals’ 25-man roster, much as Johnson has been impressed by the left-hander this spring. Then he went farther down the row of lockers to tell left-hander J.C. Romero he would be traveling with the team to Washington.

For a roster that was all but set from the outset of camp, the decision on whether Romero or Henry Rodriguez will get the Nationals’ final bullpen spot, it seems, will come down to the spring’s final day.

“We kind of know who our team is,” said third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. “We’ve pretty much known all spring what our team is. It’s almost the exact same as last year, so it’s kind of an advantage for us. We just use this time to get back to doing what we were doing last year.”

Provided they stayed healthy, the Nationals knew their only real question would come in the bullpen. They re-assigned catcher Carlos Maldonado and left-hander Abad to minor league camp Wednesday, and they’ll do the same with first baseman-outfielder Micah Owings following Thursday’s game.

That leaves only Romero, who could fill what is currently a nonexistent lefty specialist role, battling for a spot. After signing with the Nationals on Friday, Romero said he doesn’t know anything more than his travel plans for Thursday.

“I just work here,” he quipped Wednesday.

But his mere presence in Washington for the team’s exhibition game Friday against the Yankees at Nationals Park would seem to indicate that there is at least a chance he will make the team over Rodriguez, a righty who has struggled with his command and consistency as he continues to work his way back from August elbow surgery.

Rodriguez and Romero pitched in Wednesday’s game, a microcosm of the potential decision brewing in the Nationals’ front office.

Rodriguez, who is out of options, walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. He loaded the bases with two outs. But he still walked off the mound having pitched a scoreless frame. Romero allowed one hit and walked a batter in his own scoreless inning.

“It feels good being part of the concept of the team,” Romero said. “I just hope I can contribute at some point this year.”

Johnson said Rodriguez will pitch in Friday’s game, but the possibility of him landing on the disabled list seems ever-present. Johnson mentioned last week that Rodriguez was dealing with elbow soreness, perhaps as a result of all the work he’s gotten this spring, but he was well enough to pitch Monday and again Wednesday.

If the team does opt to put him on the DL, it could keep him in the organization while putting Romero on the Opening Day roster.

The Nationals will depart for Washington on Thursday night having played 33 exhibition games. They’ll have one more to go before the lights go on, and one more decision to make.

Final rotation tune-ups

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