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Zimmerman hits 3 HRs, powers Nationals over Braves

AP - Sports
Zimmerman hits 3 HRs, powers Nationals over Braves
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Washington Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman runs the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning …

VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- Ryan Zimmerman has already told Nationals manager Davey Johnson that he needs only 50 at-bats in spring training to be ready for the regular season.

Washington's third baseman, who had 48 at-bats coming into Wednesday's game against Atlanta, homered three times to lead a split squad of Nationals to an 11-2 win over the Braves.

''I guess as soon as Zim gets his 50 at-bats, he's ready,'' Johnson joked.

Zimmerman wasn't the only one to go deep for the Nationals, who got a pair of home runs from catcher Wilson Ramos and another from Tyler Moore. Four of Washington's six homers came against reliever Daniel Rodriguez, who gave up eight runs in two-plus innings.

Ramos and Zimmerman each had four RBIs.

Both of Ramos' home runs came against Rodriguez, and both were on the first pitch. The second was a three-run shot.

Zimmerman led off the fourth inning with a home run against Rodriguez, led off the fifth with one off Christian Martinez and then hit a two-run shot against Dusty Hughes in the seventh.

''I hit the ball good,'' Zimmerman said. ''I'm starting to feel better. . It's nice to start getting going.''

The Nationals have one game left in Viera on Thursday against the New York Mets before heading to Washington D.C. for an exhibition game against the Yankees on Friday. They open the season Monday at home against Miami.

While a number of teams have had competition for positions throughout the spring, the Nationals have pretty much known what their opening day roster will look like.

''We've pretty much known all spring what our team is,'' Zimmerman said. ''It's almost the exact same as last year. It's kind of an advantage for us because we get to use this time to get back to doing what we were doing last year. .. We have a good team. We just have to keep getting better.''

Zimmerman may be on track for opening day, but Atlanta catcher Gerald Laird admittedly needed some work after being slowed earlier this spring by a calf injury.

Laird and teammate Evan Gattis hit back-to-back home runs off Washington starter Ross Detwiler in the sixth inning.

''I'm starting to feel good at the right time,'' Laird said.

It was Laird's second game in a row, but only his 12th of the spring. He has had just 25 at-bats.

''I'm going to try to catch tomorrow, too, so I can go three in a row,'' Laird said. ''It was nice to get back out there and try to get your timing going. The first day, you're kind of excited. .. It was a good all-around day.''

Ramiro Pena had three hits for the Braves.

Moore, who followed Ramos' first homer with one of his own, was starting in place of Bryce Harper, who did not even take batting practice to rest his injured left thumb.

Harper was jammed with a pitch in Tuesday's game against Miami. He had originally experienced pain and swelling in the thumb after getting jammed with a pitch March 22 against Detroit.

The left fielder, who is batting .476 this spring, has reached base in his last 10 plate appearances. He told reporters Wednesday he would have been able to play if it were a regular-season game.

As it stands, though, Harper's status is up in the air for the final two games - Thursday in Viera and Friday in D.C. - as a precaution before the season opener.

''Whenever you get jammed, it hurts.'' Harper said. ''(Tuesday), I got jammed a little bit. It hurt pretty bad. I woke up this morning and it felt fine. It's just a matter of getting through it and playing through it. I don't think it's going to hold me down or anything. I have a pretty high pain tolerance.''

Harper experienced a similar situation in his first season at Class-A Hagerstown, but said this injury isn't nearly as severe. He has been wearing a foam pad on his thumb during batting practice, and may be forced to wear it during a game.

''It feels pretty uncomfortable, but I'm going to have to get used to it because I don't want to get jammed up and keep dealing with it,'' Harper said. ''We'll see what happens, see how it feels and go from there.''

NOTES: Stephen Strasburg threw five innings in an intrasquad game at the team's minor league complex. It was Strasburg's final spring appearance before he takes the mound on opening day against Miami. ... Johnson said he expects to have the team's roster finalized by the time the Nationals arrive in Washington on Friday . RHP Christian Garcia expects to be cleared to begin throwing on Monday. Garcia is on the 15-day disabled list with a right forearm tendon injury. Johnson still sees Garcia as a future starting pitcher . Detwiler, who will have nine days in between starts, is expected to throw a few bullpen sessions to keep sharp . RHP Henry Rodriguez did not give up a run in his inning of work despite loading the bases on a single and two walks. Johnson said Rodriguez will likely throw on the side Thursday and then again on Friday against the Yankees . C Evan Gattis has made the Braves' opening day roster and actually has a chance to see some early playing time with C Brian McCann still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and Laird not getting many at-bats this spring because of a strained calf.

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