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Notes: Young arms struggle

Notes: Young arms have afternoon to forget

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals right-handers Jerome Williams and Tim Redding are two of the 12 candidates vying for the fours spots in the starting rotation, but both were ineffective in a 14-5 loss to the Braves on Monday.

Williams started the game and gave up six runs -- four earned -- in 1 1/3 innings, while Redding entered the game in the fourth and allowed the Braves to score three runs in two-thirds of an inning.

Williams was able to shut down the Braves in the first inning, but things started to unravel in the second. With Braves catcher Brian McCann on first base, Jeff Francoeur hit a ground ball to shortstop D'Angelo Jimenez, who tried to get the force out at second base, but he threw the ball away to put runners on first and second and no outs. Williams faced five more hitters and could get only one out before being replaced by Felix Diaz.

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Williams acknowledged that he tried too hard to get the last two outs of the inning.

"It makes me want to strike out somebody and try to stop the damage right then and there," Williams said. "I'm thinking, 'I got to put this pitch where I want it to go ... be aggressive with it and try to throw it there.' That's the problem. You kind of [are] upset with what just happened and you want to try to correct it at that time. Sometimes you over do it and you overthrow."

Redding didn't have command of any of his pitches. The right-hander is trying to change his mechanics, which was suggested by pitching coach Randy St. Claire. Redding is having a tough time changing his pitching motion.

"I got some things I'm trying to go through and change," Redding said. "I'm looking at film, having Randy look at me from the side. He said there are some things that I need to change. I'm trying to do some things mechanically that I'm not accustom to doing. I'm trying to change what he thinks is the benefit of my ability to be consistent. I had three or four bullpens and an intrasqaud game to work on it, so it's still rough and it needs to be ironed out."

Dr. Strangelove: Manager Manny Acta has talked about the importance of catching the ball, but Jimenez has now made four errors in three games. But Acta said it is too early to judge Jimenez or anyone on the team.

"Let's not make the team after five games," Acta said. "We have plenty of games left. A lot of guys are trying to make an impression and getting out of their game a little bit."

Heat of the moment: In the ninth inning, Braves left-hander Mike Gonzalez brushed back Nationals first baseman Robert Fick with an 0-1 pitch. The ball was high and inside, but the ball never came close to hitting Fick. Still, Fick and Gonzalez had words, but no punches were thrown.

Fick then flied out to center fielder Gregor Blanco for the final out of the game. A few seconds later, Fick and Gonzalez exchanged words again.

"It's just baseball. I'm just trying to get the spring off to a good start," Fick said.

Injury report: First baseman Travis Lee, who has missed the first five exhibition games because of a strained right oblique, played in the Nationals' first accelerated game at the Carl Barger complex and went 1-for-2. Lee homered in his first at-bat off right-hander Anastacio Martinez and then flied to left field in his second at-bat.

Cristian Guzman and Alex Escobar, who are both recovering from shoulder problems, were designated hitters in the same game. Guzman went 1-for-3 with a home runs and two RBIs, while Escobar went hitless in three at-bats.

Outfielder George Lombard is expected to miss at least a week after hurting his left thumb on Sunday against the Astros. Lombard said he hurt the thumb trying to make a diving catch and avoid a collision at the same time. Lombard underwent X-rays on Monday and the results were negative.

He'll be back: Acta said that catcher Bran Schneider will return to the team on Tuesday to face the Braves. Schneider has missed the last four games because his wife, Jordan, gave birth to baby girl, Tatum Elizabeth, on Saturday morning. Jordan was released from the hospital on Monday.

Schneider was slated to return to the team on Monday, but Schneider said on Saturday that he wasn't going to arrive until Jordan was 100 percent.

FYI: In order to stretch out some of the pitchers, Acta said the team is expected to eliminate candidates for the rotation by March 15. It most likely will be widdled down to eight.

Stats of the day: The Nationals' pitchers have given up 65 hits and 30 runs in their first five games.

Did you know? Luis Ayala, Ryan Church, Chad Cordero Shawn Hill, Nick Johnson, Jose Macias, John Patterson, Jon Rauch and Schneider are the the only players in the Nationals camp to play for the Expos.

Be a part of the mailbag: The Nationals mailbag runs every Monday. Send in your questions now.

Coming up: The Braves and Nationals will meet again on Tuesday afternoon in Viera at 1:05 ET. Kyle Davies will start for the Braves, and the Nationals will counter with Colby Lewis.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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