VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson called outfielder Destin Hood the team's most improved player in their farm system.
Hood arguably had his best season in professional baseball last season, hitting .276 with 13 home runs, 83 RBIs and a .364 on-base percentage. The right-handed hitting Hood is expected to start the 2012 season with Double-A Harrisburg.
"He has really honed his baseball instincts. I probably put him in the improved category along with Michael Taylor," Johnson said. "If you asked me to grade the improvement of guys when I first saw them. Hood is the most improved followed by Michael Taylor."
Hood said he came into camp last season with a different attitude. He was in the best shape of his career by eating right and vowed to be more consistent at the plate.
"I made sure I came to the ballpark with the same mentality every day," Hood said. "I'm trying to make it an everyday thing.
Don't think Hood is satisfied with what he has accomplished so far. He wants to improve certain parts of his game.
"I want to improve my throwing in the outfield, I want to have stronger throws and be more accurate," Hood said. "My defensive routes could always use work. As far as hitting goes, I want to be consistent with my [path to the ball], driving the ball to all fields."
LaRoche most likely will not play Sunday
VIERA, Fla. -- Manager Davey Johnson said that it's doubtful that first baseman Adam LaRoche will play Sunday against the Astros. Johnson admits to being cautious with his players during the start of Spring Training. LaRoche has experienced left ankle and shoulder problems, but appears to be getting better.
"I've been watching him and he feels good," Johnson said. "Talking to Lee [Kuntz, the team's athletic trainer], Adam needs a couple of more days. Maybe by Sunday, he will be able to play, but I doubt it."
LaRoche sprained an ankle running the bases in a drill on Tuesday. LaRoche also said that his left shoulder, which was surgically repaired last year, is still not 100 percent. He recently took a range of motion test, which he passed.
Nationals come to terms with 15 players
VIERA -- The Nationals agreed to terms on 2012 contracts with 15 players on Friday.
They included pitchers Ross Detwiler, Atahualpa Severino, Cole Kimball, Ryan Mattheus, Ryan Perry, Henry Rodriguez and Craig Stammen, catchers Wilson Ramos and Jhonatan Solano, infielders Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Steve Lombardozzi, Chris Marrero and Tyler Moore and outfielder Eury Perez.
Washington also renewed the contracts of closer Drew Storen and outfielder Roger Bernadina. All players on the Nationals' 40-man roster are now signed for the 2012 season.
Michaels hoping to make Nats' bench
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Jason Michaels will be the designated hitter on Saturday afternoon against the Astros, the team he played with for three seasons.
Michaels, who signed a Minor League contract this offseason, is hoping to make the team as a bench player who could drive in runs. He is coming off a season in which he hit .199 with two home runs and 10 RBIs. He was more productive the previous year, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs for Houston.
Although he has had a nice career as a reserve, Michaels believes he still has a lot to learn in the game of baseball.
"I still feel I have a lot to improve on. Everything," Michaels said. "The main thing is to try to have a good at-bat, trying to swing at strikes. A walk is just as good as a hit, just get on base. I'm always trying to improve. As a player you always have to think that way. You can't be complacent or satisfied."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.