VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals' experiment with using Ryan Zimmerman as a first baseman took another small step forward on Tuesday morning, when the veteran third baseman worked on picking low throws out of the dirt during a drill with Adam LaRoche and Tyler Moore. It was the first official workout at the position for Zimmerman, who might start some games there this season against left-handed pitchers.
"I'm going to continue to do that and be ready so if the opportunity does come up, I'll be ready to go," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman, who has played 1,110 games at third and one at shortstop, said he "felt good" on the other side of the diamond as he took throws from manager Matt Williams.
"I thought he looked really good. It's no surprise," LaRoche said. "He's one of the better guys in the game at picking balls over at third. The way he fields, he's coming in and picking a lot of balls there. So it won't be too big of an adjustment for him, other than some footwork stuff."
Zimmerman, LaRoche and Williams all mentioned the footwork as something Zimmerman must practice. He will continue to get in some early work there, and Williams hopes to get him some innings during Grapefruit League games.
"We want to make sure his footwork is good, so his foot's in the right place, he doesn't get stepped on, those types of things," Williams said.
For his part, LaRoche is helping Zimmerman with some of the finer points of first and plans to do more as the spring continues. He isn't worried about losing some playing time in the process.
"I'm fine with it," LaRoche said. "That's the manager's call. When I'm put in the lineup, I'm going to go in and give it everything I've got. When I'm not, I'm going to cheer for my teammates. We're close enough friends where it's going to be a non-issue, if and when it comes up."
Williams announces Jordan as first spring starter
VIERA, Fla. -- One of the pitchers battling to claim the fifth spot in the Nationals' rotation will be the first to take the mound for the club in Grapefruit League play.
Manager Matt Williams announced on Tuesday that right-hander Taylor Jordan will take the ball for Washington in Friday afternoon's game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. He likely will pitch a couple of innings and be followed by a string of relievers.
Williams has yet to reveal how the rest of his rotation will follow over the next several games, but the first-year manager is eager to get a look at Jordan.
"The ball comes out of his hand really nicely," Williams said. "For me, he's got a mid-90s fastball with movement, a good changeup, breaking ball for strikes. I've been really impressed with what I've seen. It's electric stuff out of the hand. So I can't wait to see him in a game, get an opposition hitter in there and have some competition for him."
Jordan soared all the way from Class A to the Majors as a 24-year-old last season, posting a 1.00 ERA over 15 Minor League games and a 3.66 mark over nine starts for Washington. He suffered a broken ankle during the offseason, but is recovered and has participated fully in drills early in camp. On Tuesday, he threw live batting practice to Adam LaRoche, Tyler Moore and Ryan Zimmerman.
Jordan is fighting for the No. 5 starter job as part of a group that includes Ross Detwiler and Tanner Roark.
"He just needs to trust himself, trust his stuff," Williams said, "because it's really good stuff."
Mattheus has chest discomfort after 'pen session
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus underwent an MRI on Monday, which revealed costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that attaches the ribs to the sternum.
The club hasn't decide on a treatment plan for the right-hander, who first felt discomfort in his chest after throwing a bullpen session on Tuesday.
"The time frame is however fast it heals," Mattheus said Tuesday. "Once the pain gets out of there, they'll let me ramp up activity accordingly. There's no [prognosis]. It's just whenever the pain subsides."
While Mattheus still can throw without too much trouble, the simple act of taking a deep breath has become painful.
"That's the hardest part," he said. "Even the day after I did it, the throwing wasn't too bad. Even the running around, the jarring from my feet pounding the ground, stuff like that irritated it."
Mattheus is waiting for an opinion from team physician Dr. Wiemi Douoguih to see what kind of activities he can do and when. Any delay in his preparation is bad timing, considering that the 30-year-old is battling for one of the last spots in the Nationals' bullpen, a year after compiling a 6.37 ERA while missing time with a broken hand he suffered after punching a locker.
Trying to make team, Johnson endures setback
VIERA, Fla. -- Infielder Josh Johnson was in good spirits on Tuesday in the Nationals' clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium, despite learning the day before that he had encountered some misfortune.
In Major League camp for the first time as he enters his 11th season in pro baseball, the 28-year-old infielder did something he's done thousands of times before -- swing a bat. This time, something didn't feel right in his left hand, and Johnson was diagnosed with a hamate fracture, requiring surgery. The hamate is a small carpal bone in the wrist on the opposite side of the thumb.
Manager Matt Williams said Johnson is likely to miss four to six weeks, although Johnson expects to be ready in about 25 days, putting him back around the last week of camp.
"I'm a firm believer in my faith and I know the Lord has a plan for me, and for some reason, he wanted me to take a break," Johnson said. "The Nationals, I've been a part of this organization since 2010, and I feel they have an idea of what I can offer, what I can bring to the table. I'm just thankful for this opportunity they're giving me and thankful to be a ballplayer in general."
Johnson said he has full trust in the rehab plan set forth by head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz and assistant Steve Gober. He'll take a week to rest and get the swelling down, then begin his rehab, working on grip strength.
Johnson split last season between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, playing shortstop, second base, third base and both corner-outfield positions. Overall, the former Royals' third-round pick posted a .293 batting average, a .390 on-base percentage and a .458 slugging percentage, with eight home runs and 42 RBIs.
"This is a blessing to even be sitting here right now," Johnson said. "So no complaints. I've got total trust in the Nationals. Just thankful to be here."
• Closer Rafael Soriano threw for at least the third time this spring during a live batting practice session on Tuesday. Facing Nate McLouth, Wilson Ramos and Eury Perez in front of a contingent including Williams and general manager Mike Rizzo, the veteran righty broke a couple of bats and made a good impression on Williams.