WASHINGTON -- Nationals infielder Chad Tracy showed why Davey Johnson wanted to overhaul his bench this past offseason. Filling in for the injured Adam LaRoche at first base, Tracy went 3-for-4, including a two-run homer, in Saturday's 7-1 victory against Phillies.
In fact, by going 5-for-9 in his last two ballgames, Tracy has raised his batting average to .235. He said getting his fair share of at-bats lately has helped him at the plate.
"Hitting is one of those things that you need to do every day to be really good at it," Tracy said. "Coming off the bench for one [at-bat], and then having another one a couple of days later, it's tough. But that's where I'm at. I try to do my best at that job. Nothing like being able to string a few at-bats together. It's more of your eyes than anything."
Tracy is also finding a way to get the job done as a pinch-hitter. He is tied for the Major League lead with five pinch-hit RBIs.
Gio has no problem being done with sliding
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez had a weird way of running the bases during Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Phillies.
After Gonzalez led off the inning with a double, Ian Desmond followed and grounded out to second baseman Freddy Galvis. During the play, Gonzalez slid hard awkwardly into third base and scraped his knee. There wasn't any reason for Gonzalez to slide into third. Gonzalez could have gone in standing up.
"It was terrible. I turned to the dugout, and the first thing I said was, 'I'm going back to the American League. I don't have to slide anymore,'" Gonzalez said. "That is never going to happen again. I'm definitely just going to walk it in there. I'm not doing those slides."
Nats said to cool on looking for center fielder
WASHINGTON -- With the emergence of outfielder Bryce Harper, the Nationals most likely will not be looking for a center fielder after all, according to a baseball source.
The Nationals are going to give Harper every chance to establish himself at the position. Currently, Harper starts in center field when he faces left-handed pitching, and plays left field when he faces right-handed pitching.
If Harper works out in center field, the Nationals could spend their money elsewhere, the source said.
Zimmerman reports no problems after hitting
WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is on the 15-day disabled list, because of an inflamed right shoulder, had a soft-toss hitting session on Saturday and swung the bat 30 times without any problems.
Zimmerman will have a similar session and take batting practice on Sunday, and will look to return Tuesday against the Pirates.
"Nothing hurt yesterday, but I felt way better today than I did yesterday," Zimmerman said Saturday. "Whenever you come down with something, you are a little cautious at first. It was pretty much 100 percent today. I felt fine. If I improve again tomorrow, I hit BP and [show manager] Davey [Johnson] [that I can] go through my workout -- which I usually do before the game -- I'm ready to play."
Zimmerman hurt his shoulder after making several diving plays at third base during the month of April. Asked if he would do anything differently in terms of playing defense, Zimmerman said, "Unless you want me to stop diving for the ball. Those are things that happen. You play enough games and you are fortunate enough to be here long enough, you are going to get hurt. Unfortunately, I had to miss some time. Sometimes, you can play through it. Sometimes, you can't."
Johnson: I need to handle Burnett better
WASHINGTON -- Manager Davey Johnson acknowledged that he hasn't done a good job in terms of how he has handled reliever Sean Burnett.
The last time Burnett pitched in a game was April 27 against the Dodgers. Since then, Johnson has had Burnett warm up numerous times during a game without putting him in to pitch.
After Friday's 4-3 victory over the Phillies, according to Johnson, Burnett jokingly put his jersey with seeds on Johnson's desk to tell him that he is still around.
"I'm usually pretty good about handling my 'pen. I haven't done a very good with him," Johnson said about Burnett. "It seems like for a week, where I wanted him [to come into the game], but we got out of [the inning]. If I warm the guy up and get him hot once, he is available the next day. But I keep warming him up, I give him a day off. I have not handled that situation well."
Burnett has been a valuable lefty this season, allowing no runs in 6 2/3 innings entering Saturday.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.