STL@WSH: Zimmerman drives in Brown with a double

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman played his first game of the spring at third base during a 4-2 loss to the Astros on Saturday evening.

Zimmerman acknowledged that he was nervous in the first inning, but he didn't have any problems on the field. His only action came in the top of the second inning, when Carlos Corporan hit a slow roller to third base. Zimmerman grabbed it and sidearmed a perfect throw to first baseman Adam LaRoche for the first out of the inning.

"Everything was good. I think the throws in between innings got better," Zimmerman said. "The first one was not as good as I have been throwing. As the innings went on, it got better. It was good to get in front of people and get back into a game [as a defender]."

Zimmerman wasn't able to play third base until now because he was strengthening his right shoulder, which was surgically repaired this past offseason. However, Zimmerman was able to serve as a designated hitter and was 11-for-22 (.500) in that role. During practice earlier this week, Zimmerman was fielding and throwing like he did when he won a Gold Glove Award in 2009.

"I usually like to take a pretty good amount of grounds balls every day -- keep it going good," Zimmerman said. "I'm not to the point I can take all the ground balls. It's a matter of getting some endurance and getting the volume up. As far as throwing and how it feels, it feels good.

"From here on out, we will see how each day goes and go from there. We have plenty of time. It's a matter of building strength and confidence and do what I do."

Strasburg pleased with improved spring mechanics

HOU@WSH: Strasburg tosses 5 1/3 dominant innings

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was dominant on the mound during a 4-2 loss to the Astros at Space Coast Stadium on Saturday evening.

Strasburg lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowed one run on five hits, struck out eight batters and walked one. He threw a season-high 93 pitches, 64 for strikes.

"I don't know what my velocity is. I'm not really worried about that. I know it's going to come with time," Strasburg said. "I think the biggest thing is hitting my spots and executing pitches. I think I've been able to do that the last couple of times out. So I have to keep working on it. It's going to be a little better as time goes on."

Strasburg struck out five consecutive hitters before Astros outfielder Rick Ankiel hit a 2-2 pitch over the right-field wall in the fourth inning for his second home run of the spring.

"I thought Stras threw the ball great. ... He threw a lot of pitches for the innings he threw, but he still had a lot left in the tank," manager Davey Johnson said.

Strasburg was satisfied with his mechanics while pitching in the stretch, which was a problem against the Braves on Monday. He allowed four runs in that game.

In the first inning of Saturday's game, for example, the Astros had runners on first and second with no outs, but Strasburg prevented them from scoring. He was able to make adjustments on the rubber.

"I like putting [my leg] in front of the rubber a little bit," Strasburg said. "When I drive, I was pushing more out instead of down the mound. So I just kind of put it a little bit more on top of the rubber. That kind of helped me used the slope and get on top of it."

Detwiler back from Classic, ready to pitch for Nats

HOU@WSH: Detwiler on preparing, returning to team

VIERA, Fla. -- With Team USA out of the World Baseball Classic, left-hander Ross Detwiler returned to Nationals camp Saturday, while left-hander Gio Gonzalez will report to camp Monday. Gonzalez remained in Miami to be with his family.

Detwiler will get to work right away, pitching against the Tigers on Sunday. As of now, he is slated to be the fifth starter in Washington's rotation, while Dan Haren will be the fourth starter, according to manager Davey Johnson. Haren is ahead of Detwiler because the righty has more experience.

Before getting back to work with the Nats, Detwiler talked about how much he enjoyed playing in the Classic, even though his squad was eliminated by Puerto Rico on Friday.

"There are a lot of competitors out there," Detwiler said. "It's kind of fun to break the monotony of Spring Training a little bit. We actually compete on the world's stage and see what everybody else had to offer."

One of Detwiler's biggest moments was being coached by pitching coach Greg Maddux and manager Joe Torre. Detwiler admired those future Hall of Famers as a kid while growing up in Missouri.

"You see all the big names on the coaching staff," Detwiler said. "They are people whose cards you collected when you were little. Now they are teaching you little things that they know about the game -- to help you out and put you in the right direction. It's kind of unspeakable how that goes. It's pretty incredible."

Obviously, Detwiler picked Maddux's brain about attacking hitters and what he would throw in different pitch counts.

"He would walk up and down the dugout and ask random questions -- what we would do in certain situations or why you thought something went wrong," Detwiler said about Maddux.

Haren shakes off toughest start of spring

Strasburg, Suzuki and Haren on Nationals' rotation

VIERA, Fla. -- A day after experiencing a dead arm, Nationals right-hander Dan Haren said Saturday that he is feeling much better and is expected to make his scheduled start against the Braves on Thursday.

Haren had his worst outing of the spring Friday, allowing five runs in five innings against the Cardinals.

"I feel better than I did yesterday," Haren said Saturday. "I couldn't get it going yesterday. I'll take it easy, I'll take an extra day with the off-day [on Tuesday], which should be nice. Physically, I feel real good, better than I did yesterday. I'm not going to put any excuses on driving down [to Jupiter, Fla.] or anything like that. It was just one of those days yesterday."

Davey sees Storen think too much, overthrow

Outlook: Storen's bullpen role uncertain in 2013

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals reliever Drew Storen struggled for the second outing in a row. This time, he allowed three runs in one inning during a 4-2 loss to the Astros on Saturday evening at Space Coast Stadium.

The Nats had a 2-1 lead when the Astros went ahead in the eighth off Storen. With one out and runners on first and second, Carlos Correa, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, singled to left field, scoring Jose Martinez.

Correa and Trevor Crowe came around to score when Rene Garcia hit a two-run single to left field. Storen has now allowed four runs in his last two innings.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson believes Storen is thinking too much on the mound.

"When you try to be that precise [on the mound], it's kind of paralysis by analysis," Johnson said. "I want him to trust his stuff and pitch. He has great stuff. He knows how to pitch. Sometimes he goes out there and tries to overthrow the ball. Those are power pitchers."

Johnson said a power arm like Storen will start pitching every other day in order to be ready for the season. Storen is expected to be one of Washington's setup men.

Young scheduled to get two more starts for Nats

Chris Young on his recent spring outing vs. Astros

VIERA, Fla. -- With left-hander Ross Detwiler back in camp, right-hander Chris Young will make two more starts for the Nationals, although he has an opt-out clause on March 24, which is the day before the second start.

As of now, there is a no chance Young will be on the 25-man roster. Barring injury, Washington's rotation is set and Young is not going to be part of the bullpen.

"I like him. I think he is good pitcher," manager Davey Johnson said. "He throws the ball well. He is not a candidate to pitch in my 'pen. I think everybody looks at him as a starter."

Worth noting

• Mid-Atlantic Sports Network has decided to replace Kristina Akra, who was the sideline reporter for the Nationals. The replacement might not come until Opening Day.

•Catcher Wilson Ramos wanted to play nine innings on Saturday against the Astros, but manager Davey Johnson turned him down. Chris Snyder entered the game in the sixth. Johnson said the catchers will start going nine innings next week.

• The Nationals have released right-handers Francisco Samuel and Randy Consuerga from their Minor League camp.

• The Nats are expected to make their third round of cuts next week.