PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Manager Davey Johnson has been impressed with the young Minor League position players, which include Matt Skole and Zach Walters. However, Johnson took notice how much Chris Marrero has progressed.
Marrero missed a lot of time last year because of a right hamstring injury. This spring, however, Johnson likes the way Marrero has been swinging the bat.
"I'm glad to see Chris Marrero. Last year was kind of an injury year for him, but he is swinging the bat well," Johnson said. "It was a shame about what happened to him last year."
Johnson noticed that Marrero has more power in his swing. Even though Marrero didn't hit any homers during his callup in 2010, Johnson felt Marrero's power would be similar to Rafael Palmeiro's. The left-handed-hitting Palmeiro didn't become a home run hitter until his days with the Rangers a few years into his career.
"I'm not worried about Marrero's power, because I had a lot of guys that hit a lot of home runs," Johnson said. "Raffy Palmeiro, when he was with the Cubs, was a line-drive hitter and he was a .300 hitter. The power came after he felt really comfortable as a hitter. He started hitting a lot of home runs. I felt like Marrero was following in the same path -- hitting line drives all over the field, using the whole field."
Gio 'having fun out there' during first spring start
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez pitched his first game of the spring against the Mets and was solid in a 6-4 victory on Monday night. Gonzalez pitched two scoreless innings, allowed no hits and struck out three batters.
Gonzalez found himself in some trouble in the first inning. It turned out that he had mechanical issues that were straightened out by the end of the frame. The Mets had runners on second and third with one out, but Gonzalez struck out Ike Davis and got Marlon Byrd to pop up to shortstop Zach Walters to end the inning.
Gonzalez was able to retire the side in order in the second inning, striking out two batters. It helped that his curveball was in midseason form. His fastball was clocked as a high as 93 mph with movement, according to manager Davey Johnson.
"I felt good. I was having fun out there," Gonzalez said. "The important part was that you saw everyone that was playing was having fun. I think [catcher Chris] Synder did a great job, calling a great game. He is such a hard target to miss. He is such a big guy. He did a great job."
Said Johnson: "Gio was great. He had a little rough first inning, but he was ... like his normal self in the second. That's all I needed."
The game marked the first time Gonzalez pitched in a game since The Miami New Times linked the pitcher to Anthony Bosch, who reportedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes.
Gonzalez was pleased that the fans supported him while he was on the mound. While he was doing sprints on the warning track, fans continued to give Gonzalez support. While leaving the stadium, he was seen giving fans his autograph.
"It's good to get on that mound again and get back at it, especially with the fan support I was getting out there," Gonzalez said. "It was good to hear that the fans still support you and still love you. There were a little butterflies, which is a good thing. When you get that feeling, it means that baseball hasn't left your emotions or anything like that. When I got the first pitch out of the way, I was pretty excited to go out there and play my game."
Gonzalez will make two more starts before going to the World Baseball Classic. He is expected to join Team USA in Miami. In his next start, which will be against the Cardinals on Saturday, Gonzalez will pitch three innings and then go four innings in the next start after that.
"To represent Team USA is the biggest honor," Gonzalez said. "I think to pitch alongside Ross Detwiler and some of the guys that they have on that side, it's going to be fun. We can pick up from each other and learn from each other. I can't wait to get into that dugout and talk to the guys."
Tracy, Owings out of action with injuries
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Infielders Chad Tracy and Micah Owings were scheduled to travel with the Nationals and play against the Mets on Monday, but they were scratched because of injuries. They are both listed as day to day.
Tracy has a sore right shoulder after he was hit by a pitch against the Marlins on Sunday. Monday marked the first Spring Training road trip Tracy has missed since he signed a Minor League contract with the club last year.
"He got hit in his right shoulder and that is his throwing arm. It was sore," manager Davey Johnson said. "He wasn't going to throw, he wasn't going to hit today. He has today off and will get [Tuesday] off. And he'll be ready to go hopefully [on Wednesday]."
Owings has a sore left wrist, but Johnson is not sure how Owings hurt the wrist. Owings last played on Saturday and played all nine innings against the Mets. He did not get an MRI, according to Johnson.
"He came in early to get some treatment for his left wrist and he was disappointed that he couldn't make the trip [on Monday]," Johnson said. "I think he might have strained it or something."
Karns overcomes nerves in scoreless outing
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Nationals reliever Nathan Karns acknowledged that he was nervous when he entered Monday's 6-4 victory against the Mets. In fact, after pitching in the sixth inning, manager Davey Johnson told Karns to "breathe" after realizing Karns was red-faced and sweaty.
Karns looked like a veteran in the seventh inning, however. In all, he pitched two shutout innings, allowed a single to David Wright and struck out three batters.
"It has been a long time. It was a first-time outing under the lights," Karns said. "It was a little something special. It was nice."
Karns, ranked by MLB.com as the Nationals' No. 6 prospect, was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going a combined 11-4 with two saves and a 2.17 ERA in 24 games this past season with Class A Hagerstown and Class A Potomac. The 24-year-old led all Washington pitchers in ERA and strikeouts (148), while his win total ranked tied for second.
• Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Jayson Werth will play their first games of the spring on Wednesday against the Marlins, according to Johnson, who said all along that he would start them slowly. Both players most likely will get two at-bats during the game.
• Reliever Henry Rodriguez had a bullpen session on Sunday and didn't have any problems. He threw nothing but fastballs. Rodriguez will have one more bullpen session before throwing to hitters in a live session.
• Right-hander Chris Young will replace Ross Detwiler in the rotation once Detwiler goes to the World Baseball Classic. Young will work out of the bullpen before starting his first game on March 9 against the Marlins.
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.