- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ready to play

VIERA, Fla. - The exhibition season begins Wednesday, and not a moment too soon for the Nationals. The team has grown tired of intrasquad workouts and the tedium of fielding and baserunning drills.

Washington travels to nearby Kissimmee for its Grapefruit League opener against the Houston Astros, the first opportunity for manager Manny Acta and his staff to see their roster in game situations.

“Hopefully you can start seeing some of the progress,” Acta said.

Left-hander John Lannan gets the nod for the opener against Houston veteran Mike Hampton. Lannan, who’s scheduled to pitch only two innings, will emphasize command more than results.

“I just want to try to keep the ball down and throw strikes,” he said. “I don’t want to walk anybody. Last year in the beginning [of exhibition play] I was pitching all around the zone a little bit. So I want to attack the zone early and get outs.”

Only a handful of lineup regulars will make the one-hour trip west: Lastings Milledge, Jesus Flores, Austin Kearns and Ronnie Belliard. The rest will remain in Viera and work out on their own, with those players scheduled to be in the lineup Thursday for the Nationals’ home opener against the Detroit Tigers.

Injury update

Though X-rays were negative on Dmitri Young’s injured left ring finger, the veteran first baseman was not available to participate in Tuesday’s workout. Young, who was struck by a pitch during a bunting drill Sunday, still had trouble gripping a bat.

Ian Desmond was back at the complex after a doctor’s visit in Baltimore on Monday to examine the shortstop’s left hand. That exam revealed no fracture of Desmond’s hamate bone, as was previously feared. Though he’s not 100 percent, the minor leaguer received clearance to resume workouts.

- Mark Zuckerman


UP - Grapefruit League

Let the games begin

UP - Sliding drill

No one got injured

DOWN - “Viera … home to choices”

What, Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel?


“Of course you want to start playing games. But this has all been necessary stuff to get done.”

- Left-hander John Lannan on the fundamental drills that define the first two weeks of spring training


Washington: Partly cloudy, 50 degrees.

Viera: Partly cloudy, 73 degrees.


Wednesday: vs. Astros in Kissimmee, 1 p.m.

Thursday: vs. Tigers in Viera, 1 p.m.

Friday: vs. Astros in Viera, 1 p.m.

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