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Davey checks out new players at first workout

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VIERA, Fla. -- With so much of the Nationals' core returning from a successful 2012 season -- essentially all positions are accounted for, plus the entire rotation and most of the bullpen -- the first full team workout Sunday gave the players a sense of familiarity amongst each other and gave manager Davey Johnson a chance to look at the organization's younger and more inexperienced players.

The 2013 Nationals are expected to bear a striking resemblance to the '12 group that surprised baseball and won the National League East. Swap in Dan Haren for Edwin Jackson at the back end of the rotation, and Denard Span for Michael Morse in one of the outfield spots (though a different place in the batting order) and much of everything else stays the same. There is a bullpen spot or two up for grabs and a bit of shuffling at the back end with the addition of Rafael Soriano, but that's about it.

"It feels like we just picked up where we left off," left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. "Having fun, seeing these guys. The chemistry between the position players and the pitchers is about just having fun. Obviously goofing around, just having fun. But when the game starts, we put that aside and just get ready for the ballgame."

As for Johnson's own personal preparation, he took the opportunity Sunday to scout some non-roster invitees like infielders Will Rhymes and Micah Owings.

"I was more interested in seeing some of the new guys I haven't seen," Johnson said. "I like what I saw. Took ground balls, and it gave me an idea of how their actions were. It's always nice to see what positions they were playing."

Johnson also said he saw some of Matt Skole, who displayed some impressive power to right field. The 23-year-old hit .291 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs between low Class A Hagerstown and high Class A Potomac last season.

Owings is a former pitcher who is looking to make it back to the big leagues as an infielder. He pitched just six games last year with the Padres, and with a history of always being an exceptional hitting pitcher, is trying to make a comeback under general manager Mike Rizzo, who drafted him to the D-backs in 2005.

"I was very interested to see him take ground balls and swing the bat, because I haven't seen him that much," said Johnson, who views Owings primarily as a first baseman or left fielder. "He swung the bat very good. I liked his stroke. He showed good hands for a big man, with all those comebackers. And he said throwing the ball around the infield wasn't a problem."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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