- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A mini-kerfuffle unfolded between the Nationals and Phillies on Wednesday after Stephen Strasburg hit Chase Utley’s back ankle with an errant fastball.

“I don’t have any reason to throw at him, do I?” Strasburg said.

Roy Halladay followed up by throwing a pitch behind Tyler Moore, the most experienced player left in the Nationals’ lineup after Utley’s ding. Halladay told Philadelphia media he lost his grip on the ball, but delivered the remark with a smile.

“He missed a little inside,” Moore deadpanned. “Maybe it just slipped out of his hand.”

Nationals manager Davey Johnson dismissed the exchange as “much ado about nothing” and hoped Strasburg hits more batters because it means he’s pitching inside.

Strasburg’s control wobbled during Wednesday’s 67-pitch start. The right-hander surrendered five hits and two runs in 3 2/3 innings, issuing a walk and a wild pitch to go along with the hit batter.

The conditions, where wind gusted to 30 miles per hour leaving the day unusually chilly and dry, weren’t ideal. That made gripping the baseball more challenging, something Strasburg connected to his hanging breaking balls.

Rendon opening eyes

Johnson isn’t the only one impressed with Anthony Rendon’s hot-hitting spring (Rendon added an opposite-field home run Wednesday aided by gusty wind).

“[Ryan Zimmerman] asked if there’s any other positions he plays,” Johnson said.

Rendon, of course, is a third baseman like Zimmerman, but has appeared at shortstop and second base this spring.

Around the horn

Rehabbing Henry Rodriguez will pitch to one batter in a game later this week after he threw live batting practice Tuesday without a problem. Micah Owings returned to game action Wednesday after fighting a left wrist issue. … Denard Span, from nearby Tampa, was the only regular in the lineup Wednesday. Aside from backups Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore, the afternoon (and the two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Viera) belonged to an assortment of minor leaguers. … The Nationals signed 18 players, leaving everyone in camp under contract.

• Nathan Fenno can be reached at nfenno@washingtontimes.com.

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