- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

VIERA, Fla. — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson stood close by Ryan Zimmerman on Tuesday morning, watching his third baseman make throws from about 75 feet. After a few minutes, Johnson chatted briefly with Zimmerman, and their conversation continued later by the batting cage.

Johnson came away pleased.

“He looked natural,” Johnson said. “Free and easy.”

Zimmerman said on Wednesday, his third consecutive day of throwing, he will most likely progress to playing catch from 90 feet. He expects to be hitting on the field with the rest of his teammates by the end of the week.

“It’s getting better and better each time,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, who is already hitting in the batting cages, still likely won’t be ready to work out fully on both sides of the ball for about another two weeks.

But with his hitting coming along quicker than building up the throwing strength in his right shoulder following arthroscopic surgery in October, Johnson broached the topic of Zimmerman serving as a designated hitter during spring games. He was open to it.

“You don’t want to sit too long,” Johnson said, noting the DH-ing could help get Zimmerman to his usual 50 or so at-bats for the spring. “When we start playing games, anybody’s going to feel the urgency of, ‘Well I need to get in there.’ I want to go real slow with all the problems he’s had with the shoulder and offseason surgery. I just wanted to check that out and he had no problem with it.

“He knows what he needs to do. I feel like if you talk to him, he’ll say he feels like he’s right on track to be where he wants to be by Opening Day, [and] what I saw [Tuesday] was really good.”

Three Nats in BA’s Top 100

The Washington Nationals had three of their prospects named in Baseball America’s annual listing of the Top 100 prospects in the sport.

The Nationals were headlined by third baseman Anthony Rendon at No. 30. Right-hander Lucas Giolito made the cut at No. 67, and outfielder Brian Goodwin was listed at No. 70.

Rendon has come into major league camp this season looking to continue to prove his health. Dogged by injuries during his amateur career — and part of the reason he slipped to No. 6 overall in the 2011 draft — Rendon saw his first professional season curtailed by an ankle fracture in the first series of 2012.

He finished the year healthy, though, as the Nationals pushed him to Double-A and put together a very strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Rendon will work at third base, second base and shortstop this spring.

The Nationals were also pleased with the season Goodwin put together, though he went through some growing pains. Goodwin hit .280 between Single-A Hagerstown and Double-A Harrisburg and collected 11 extra-base hits in the Arizona Fall League.

Giolito, an immensely talented 18-year-old right-hander, is in the early stages of rehab for Tommy John surgery but is progressing well.

Spring rotation set, for now

The first two turns through the Nationals’ spring rotation have been set with Stephen Strasburg leading things off Feb. 23, followed by Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren. They will have to adjust once Detwiler departs for the World Baseball Classic on March 4, and when Gonzalez follows him March 12.

• Amanda Comak can be reached at acomak@washingtontimes.com.

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