Christian Garcia chats with Manager Davey Johnson on Thursday. (Jonathan Newton/TWP)

Pitcher Christian Garcia will be evaluated by a Baltimore hand specialist and is still hoping to play catch on March 17, after a four-week shutdown for a partially torn tendon in his right forearm. Garcia said the pain in his forearm was gone starting Friday, the first day of his rehab. He bent his fingers back in his right arm to prove that it longer hurt his forearm when he did that.

Nationals Manager Davey Johnson is still optimistic Garcia will avoid the disabled list to start the season. He was one of the most impressive arms in camp before he felt the twinge in his wrist throwing on a cold spring morning in Viera.

“There’s still time for him,” Johnson said. “But we’ll just have to wait and see.”

But given the probable timetable for Garcia’s return should be start throwing without any issue on March 17, he won’t likely be ready for opening day. It’s unclear when Garcia will visit with the specialist.

The Nationals planned to stretch out Garcia this spring with the potential to make him a starter. It remains to be seen how his injury will affect those plans.

>>> Chris Young makes his first start of the spring on Saturday, filling in for Ross Detwiler in the rotation. The Nationals are hoping he can throw three innings, as he already has a handful of bullpen sessions and a minor league “B” game start under his belt.

>>> Nate Karns was cleared by doctors to resume pitching after dealing with some tightness in his upper right leg, Johnson said. The right-hander will throw a side bullpen session on Sunday and be re-evaluated before returning to game action. Karns said he felt the discomfort his previous appearance and it continued on Friday, when he struggled on the mound.

“It’s tolerable but a little kink I got to iron out,” Karns said. “… Mentally, it’s a distraction and something I feel every pitch.”

>>> Johnson plans to use Ryan Zimmerman as a designated hitter until March 18, the final day the Nationals plan to use a designated hitter in the Grapefruit League. Zimmerman, who is has been throwing across the diamond as he slowly eases back from offseason shoulder surgery, will play third base around then, Johnson said. He could DH if the Nationals are playing an American League team or if both teams agree to use one.

“He’s the least of my concerns,” Johnson said. “He’s taking his work. He’s got great hands. He doesn’t need but a couple games.”

>>> Will Ohman, a veteran reliever who the Nationals assigned to minor league camp last week, was granted his unconditional release. Bill Bray, a left-handed reliever working through issues with his mechanics with the Nationals, accepted his minor league assignment and reported to camp. The Nationals can take their time with Bray, who they are still high on, since his opt-out date isn’t until June.