Notes: Rotation spot up for grabs

Notes: Rotation spot up for grabs

VIERA, Fla. -- Right-handers Tim Redding and Jerome Williams are battling to be in the starting rotation, but neither has been impressive.

On Saturday, against the Mets, Redding was hit hard in two innings, giving up four runs on five hits, before Williams pitched three innings and gave up a run on three hits.

Unlike in his last outing, on Monday against the Braves, Redding felt relaxed on the mound, and it showed in the first inning.

But he had a tough time getting hitters out in the next inning, giving up back-to-back home runs to Ben Johnson and David Newhan. He then allowed a sacrifice fly by Endy Chavez and an RBI double by Shawn Green.

Redding ended up throwing 51 pitches, 35 for strikes.

"He got ahead of almost all of the hitters, and he was very good with his first-pitch strikes," pitching coach Randy St. Claire said. "Then he made some mistakes after those first-pitch strikes, which he got hurt on."

Redding has now given up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings, but feels he will be better on the mound.

"I'm going to be fine," Redding said. "I know the numbers don't look great right now. I feel like my pitches are getting better and better every time I'm throwing in bullpen and game situations. I'll be fine by the end of the spring given that I get the opportunity to keep running out there."

Williams didn't throw enough first-pitch strikes and found himself in trouble almost right away. With one out, he gave up a solo home run to Jose Valentin in the fifth. St. Claire said that Williams should have thrown a breaking ball instead of the fastball, which Valentin loves to hit.

Williams was able to get out of the jam in the fifth inning, when Johnson was thrown out at the plate. Williams ended up having an uneventful sixth inning.

"He was just OK," said manager Manny Acta. "He threw OK after the first inning or so. He got help from our defense, but that's part of the game."

He's a player: Rookie outfielder Kory Casto has impressed Acta thus far. The skipper likes the fact that Casto is working the count during every at-bat and that he has played in the field.

"I like his work ethic and the way he has played defense at third and left field," said Acta. "Wherever we put him, I'm impressed. He is going to be part of the Nationals' future. He is going to be a bright one here."

The long ball: First baseman Larry Broadway has four hits this spring, and all of them have been singles. Acta said that he is not concerned that the left-handed-hitting Broadway isn't showing any power.

"I probably want to see power, but it's only a few games," Acta said. "He hasn't even played [10] games. The guy could go on a power surge. It's early. With a guy like Larry, we have to wait until the end of Spring Training to address all that. But I would rather have bloop hits than no hits at all."

What a play: Center fielder Nook Logan continues to show why he is an important piece of the team's defense. In the seventh inning on Saturday, Logan jumped to rob Ruben Sierra of a home run in left-center field.

"He is going to make a difference here, whether it's making that catch [in center field] or catching a popup that a lot of guys can't get to," said Acta. "That's why we are high on him."

The switch-hitting Logan also drove in the game-winning run with a single down the third-base line off left-hander Eddie Camacho.

"It was the perfect situation for Nook because we all know he is a little bit more advanced from the right side," Acta said. "It was a better matchup for him."

Injury report: Cristan Guzman, who missed all of 2005 because of right shoulder problems, played five innings at shortstop during the accelerated intrasquad game on Friday and will do the same thing on Sunday. If things go well, he could be playing shortstop for the Major League team by the middle of the week.

Stat of the day: Jason Simontacchi leads the Nationals in innings pitched, with seven.

Did you know? Redding's best season in the big leagues was in 2003, when he was 10-14 with a 3.68 ERA with the Astros.

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Coming up: The Nationals travel to Vero Beach, Fla., on Sunday to face the Dodgers for the third time this spring. The teams have split the first two games. Washington left-hander Chris Michalak will face Los Angeles right-hander Brad Penny at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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