The Washington Post

Kurt Suzuki plays nine, Bryce Harper raking, Henry Rodriguez’s workload

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post) (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Kurt Suzuki played nine innings in a 7-5 win over the Miami Marlins in Jupiter on Wednesday, the first Nationals catcher to play a complete game this spring. Manager Davey Johnson brought all the regulars — including Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth — on the trip to Jupiter but played all of them five innings, except for Suzuki.

Johnson is leaning heavily on the starters this week, including on road trips, and will ease off of them next week, the final one before the regular season starts. Suzuki played all nine innings and, according to Johnson, looked good.

“He’s been after me to do that probably for a couple weeks,” Johnson said.

Suzuki hit a towering shot to center field in the ninth inning, and finished 2 for 4 with one RBI.

Wilson Ramos, who didn’t travel and was slated to play in a minor league game to get at-bats, is scheduled to start on Thursday. Johnson said he will play Ramos longer than seven innings, the deepest he has played into a game since his May knee injury.

>>> Bryce Harper continues to demolish spring pitching and settle into his No. 3 spot in the lineup. With pitcher Chris Young and Denard Span on base ahead of him in the third inning with one out, Harper went the other way with a pitch from left-hander Wade LeBlanc for a two-run double.

In the fifth, with the bases loaded, Harper singled to right off LeBlanc and drove in two more runs. Both times, Harper drove in Span, the team’s leadoff hitter. He drove in Jayson Werth, the No. 2 hitter, once.

“He’s a smart hitter,” Johnson said of Harper. “First time he got jammed, he threw him a cutter that came back inside. And the next time up he hit those pitches. He’s a quick study.”

Harper went 2 for 3 with four RBI, and is now hitting .400 (20 for 50) and slugging .700 in 18 spring games. He has eight extra-base hits and 12 RBI.

>>> Henry Rodriguez started the ninth inning reminiscent of his late 2012 form that inserted wild uncertainty into games. He fell behind 3-1 to the first two batters, missing the strike zone noticeably and his body language slow and deliberate.

After two walks with no outs, he again fell behind 3-1 but induced a groundout. He traded another groundout for a run and closed out the game with yet another groundout from Marlins super prospect Christian Yelich. He controlled his command better in the final two at-bats, not throwing harder than 96 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun.

Johnson said Rodriguez needs more work to iron out his kinks because he is behind other relievers. Wednesday’s appearance was only the right-hander’s sixth appearance of the spring. Rodriguez will throw back-to-back games next week, and pitch every other day.

“He’s a power arm and he hasn’t thrown a lot last year,” Johnson said. “He didn’t pitch winter ball. So once he’s been healthy, I need to go to him more to kinda wear him down and get him comfortable going out there. It’s just a matter of him getting enough innings under his belt this spring.”

>>> The Nationals completed the three-team January trade that shipped Michael Morse to Seattle and Washington received former farmhand A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen in return from Oakland. The Nationals acquired the player to be named later on Wednesday, left-hander Ian Krol.

Krol, 21, picked in the seventh round of the 2009 draft out of Naperville, Ill., reached Class AA Midland last season. Between high-A and AA last season, he posted a 5.20 ERA split between starting and relieving, and posted a 3.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He was named the Athletics 2010 minor league pitcher of the year after posting a 10-4 record and 2.80 ERA in A and high-A. Since then, however, he has struggled and was even suspended more than two months for tweeting a homophobic slur for which he has apologized, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.



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