JUPITER, Fla. -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson remains content with the notion that Washington could open the season with just one left-hander in the bullpen, but he mentioned the name of a recently-demoted pitcher as one who still has a good shot of contributing this year.
After the offseason departure of Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and Mike Gonzalez, it leaves Zach Duke as potentially the lone lefty in the 'pen. Fernando Abad remains in Major League camp, and Johnson mentioned veteran Bill Bray -- reassigned to Minor League camp on March 3 -- as a possible piece.
"He's coming along," Johnson said of Bray. "He's making progress. So we'll see. But his arm strength is pretty good. It's just his release point is not what it used to be. So we're trying to stretch his arm position farther away from his body. He started tucking it and getting behind him, and that affects your command and also your velocity."
Johnson has said matchups don't concern him so much with the experienced right-handers he has in his 'pen. He's quick to point out that Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano all have experience closing games.
"Ideally, I have a comfort zone of lefties creating a match up that I'd favor," Johnson said. "But if I have confidence in a right-hander getting them out, there's not much difference. I'd rather have a right-hander that can get them out than a left-hander that can't. It's that simple."
Nats get Krol as last piece of Morse trade
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals received left-hander Ian Krol from the A's on Wednesday, completing the Michael Morse trade from Jan. 16.
Krol, 21, was the player to be named later in the deal that sent Morse to Seattle, A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen from Oakland to Washington and John Jaso from Seattle to Oakland.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., Krol spent last season between High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland in the A's system. He combined to go 2-9 in 29 appearances (15 starts) with a 5.20 ERA.
He was Oakland's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, going 10-4 with a 2.80 ERA that season in 28 games (27 starts) with Class A Kane County and Stockton.
Young believes he can contribute at big league level
VIERA, Fla. -- Whether or not Wednesday was Chris Young's last start with the Nationals this spring, he will surely have made a strong closing argument for himself and his future.
Young's outing against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium was the best of his three Grapefruit League appearances (he also pitched in a Minor League intrasquad game), as he scattered two hits and one walk over five shutout innings. He struck out two while throwing 64 pitches.
"There's still work to be done, progress to be made, but it's an improvement," Young said. "That's the way spring's supposed to go. You're supposed to get a little bit better each time. I feel like I've made strides."
Manager Davey Johnson said after the game he hopes Johnson will start again for the Nats on March 25 in Kissimmee, but that would mean Young's opt-out date of March 24 had come and gone. The Nationals signed the 6-foot-10 right-hander to a Minor League contract with an invitation to big league camp to bolster starting depth.
Young was honest and realistic about his options on Wednesday, emphasizing how much he's enjoyed his time with the Nationals, but his belief is that he's a big-league pitcher.
"It's something my agent and I will discuss and see if there are any opportunities out there and see where they may be," Young said. "There's a lot of stuff that I'm going to have to evaluate. I love it here. I've had a great spring. ... Just being around a winning team, it's so much fun. You can tell how good this team is and it's fun to be around."
If he'd be facing a future with Triple-A Syracuse, he says he's more likely to take a Major League deal elsewhere, if offered. But if it's only Minor League options, he's happy with the Nats.
"To turn down a big league opportunity to go to Triple-A is probably not in my best interest," Young said. "If I'm weighing Triple-A options, this would be at the top of my list. If I'm comparing a big-league opportunity to a Triple-A option, I think you guys would all do the same thing."
With Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez absent for some of the spring to participate in the World Baseball Classic, Young has been one of a handful of starters to receive extra opportunities. In three Grapefruit League outings, he's allowed four runs in 12 innings, scattering nine hits and six walks.
"He's Chris Young," Johnson said. "He's a heck of a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. We've certainly had troubles with him when we faced him, and he's the same kind of guy. He reads hitters well, makes his pitches up, doesn't give in to anybody."
Tooth problem may be setback for Soriano
JUPITER, Fla. -- Reliever Rafael Soriano, who has made just five Grapefruit League appearances this spring, could be looking at another setback in the coming days.
Manager Davey Johnson said Soriano has been bothered by a wisdom tooth problem, and it's something that could require surgery in the near future. After arriving late to camp because of visa issues, Soriano has a 11.57 ERA in five games (4 2/3 innings) while striking out five and walking one.
Johnson said Soriano made a trip back to his native Dominican Republic on the Nationals' off-day on Tuesday and was expected to return to Florida on Wednesday afternoon, at which point the Nats would have a better idea of their course of action. Soriano is scheduled to pitch next on Friday.
"I think from the X-rays, it could be a problem," Johnson said. "He could need to have a root canal or something, I don't know, further examination from the X-ray. He hasn't committed to anything. But that's something that you always look at, because if he has an impacted molar or something, it could lead to an infection, and that can be a problem for your shoulder."
It's not uncommon, as Johnson alluded, for tooth pain to impact the shoulder and neck. But it's unclear whether Soriano will choose to have any necessary operation performed in the States or back in the Dominican. The team is hoping the right-hander will be able to throw on back-to-back days before Opening Day. To get a better idea of the plan, the club is waiting to hear from Soriano and playing it by ear.
Or, Johnson said: "Play it by tooth."
Bernadina expected to return on Thursday
JUPITER, Fla. -- Outfielder Roger Bernadina is expected to return to the field for the Nationals on Thursday, after spending nearly a month away with The Kingdom of the Netherlands team for the World Baseball Classic.
The Dutch team advanced to the championship round in San Francisco this week, falling in the semifinals to the Dominican Republic. Bernadina played in six of the team's eight games -- missing some action after being hit by a pitch on the right arm -- batting .208 (3-for-22) with a run scored and three RBIs while playing center field.
"Bernie's fine, he's playing good," manager Davey Johnson said. "It's all about having everybody on the club and being up to snuff at the end of this week."
Johnson has expressed desire for all the Nats' regulars to be playing together most every day at this point in the spring -- the starting nine that made the trip to Jupiter on Wednesday closely resembles the probable Opening Day lineup, save for starting pitcher Chris Young -- and that could mean fewer at-bats for Bernadina, a backup outfielder.
"He'll kind of regroup, and I'll get him in some games," Johnson said. "But Bernie's used to playing sporadically and he handles it very well. Better than most."
Outfielder Eury Perez, who was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse while away with the Dominican Republic, struck out in one at-bat as a late addition to the Dominican club.