Nats manager Williams has advantage of rotation depth

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the eighth inning of Tuesday's 8-4 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium, Spring Training served its purpose for the Nationals.

Manager Matt Williams brought right fielder Steven Souza to the infield dirt to give reliever Luis Ayala a five-man infield against second baseman Philip Gosselin. Left fielder Michael Taylor and center fielder Eury Perez then shifted to the outfield gaps.

Gosselin took advantage of the move, lofting a fly ball that landed right about where Souza would have been standing. Three runs scored, and Gosselin made it all the way to third base with a stand-up triple.

A sinkerball pitcher such as Ayala was the "perfect guy" to have on the mound to try the five-man infield shift, Williams said.

"We've got to work on it," Williams said. "It's one of our plays in case we need it at some point, so we figured, 'OK, we'll try it. We'll see what it looks like.' It was fun."

When Souza reached the infield, he traded gloves with first baseman and non-roster invitee Brock Petersen. In a regular-season game, Williams said, Washington would have likely retrieved an infielder's glove for Souza from the dugout.

Although the situation was unusual, Souza said it was familiar.

"We've practiced it a few times," Souza said. "We went over it a few times, and I think it was a great idea if Ayala gets a ground ball there."

Although the decision did not work out, Williams has no regrets.

"We have to see what it looks like," he said. "Otherwise we'll never be able to use it in a game. It's stuff we have to do during spring, especially early, so we can understand it and then, as we get later into spring, pick our spots if we want to do it. But we have to understand if we can use it in the season in case it gets to that situation."

As for the ball landing in the vacant spot, Souza just chalked it up to chance.

"Yeah, I mean, who knows?" he said. "It's not going to roll like that every day."

Gonzalez returns to Nats on Minor League deal

In 2012, Mike Gonzalez had a 3.03 ERA in 47 relief appearances.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Left-hander Mike Gonzalez will return to the Nationals after signing a Minor League deal with the club on Tuesday. Gonzalez, 35, recorded a 4.68 ERA in 75 appearances as a member of the Brewers last season and joins the fray as a contender for one of Washington's final bullpen spots.

"He knows how to get lefties out," manager Matt Williams said. "He's here on a Minor League deal with the idea that he'll compete."

Williams is hopeful that Gonzalez -- who has been working out and throwing on his own this spring -- will join the team on Wednesday.

"It's a little bit late in the game, but he told us he's been throwing and he's ready to go," Williams said. "We'll see when he gets here what, in fact, he's done and where he's at."

Gonzalez aims to become the second left-hander out of the Nationals' bullpen behind Jerry Blevins, acquired from the A's in a December trade. Blevins, 29, recorded a 3.15 ERA in 67 appearances in 2013.

Xavier Cedeno, 27, is also a candidate for that spot. Cedeno recorded a 1.50 ERA in 11 relief outings with the Nationals last season and compiled an even better mark of 1.31 in 39 appearances with Triple-A Syracuse.

Cedeno pitched two scoreless frames in Spring Training action before Tuesday's game against the Braves.

Williams is also open to using right-hander Tyler Clippard against left-handed batters. Clippard held opposing lefties to a .152 average last season.

Ideally, every manager would employ two lefties in the bullpen, Williams said, but roster configuration will require him to meditate on the process.

"You look at it and say, 'Do you want two lefties? Do we need two lefties?'" Williams said. "'What does the first lefty offer you? Does he have the ability to get right-handers out as well? Is he a longer guy that's resilient that [can throw] an inning-plus to two innings in a game? How does he bounce back?' All of those questions come into play."

Washington hopes that if Gonzalez makes the team, he can channel the performance he provided en route to the club's first National League East title in 2012. That season, he posted a 3.03 ERA -- his lowest in the past four seasons -- in 47 appearances out of the Nationals' bullpen.

Werth 'good to go' against Mets

Outlook: Werth is still very capable at the plate

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Outfielder Jayson Werth (strained right biceps) will be in the lineup on Wednesday afternoon against the Mets. Manager Matt Williams said on Tuesday that the veteran is "good to go."

"He's going to go through a full workout today to make sure," Williams said, "but he's scheduled to go tomorrow."

Like Werth, outfielder Jeff Kobemus, sidelined by flu-like symptoms, did not travel with the Nationals to face the Braves on Tuesday.

"Kobemus is still feeling it, so we left him back today," Williams said. "He has a little stomach issue, so he's not feeling well."

Outfielder Bryce Harper experienced similar stomach issues on his scheduled off-day on Sunday, but started in left field and batted third in Tuesday's game.

Storen settles in after shaky start to debut

Outlook: Storen should build on strong 2013 finish

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Drew Storen's Spring Training debut on Tuesday resulted in a blown save and a 8-4 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.

Storen began the bottom of the seventh by issuing back-to-back walks to Tommy La Stella and Chris Johnson. He earned some breathing room by getting Dan Uggla to fly out, but the rough start caught up with him when Andrelton Simmons came up.

Simmons doubled to left, plating La Stella and pinch-runner Philip Gosselin to tie the score at 4. Storen settled in after that, retiring Jordan Schafer and Jose Constanza on groundouts to end the inning.

"He was just a little pumped up," manager Matt Williams said. "The ball was up in the zone. He ended up calming down after he threw a few pitches and got the ball back down in the zone again."

Although the result was not ideal, Storen and Williams were both pleased with the outing. Facing hitters and getting comfortable during spring is part of the process, Storen said.

"You just tend to speed up because you get in a game and face some hitters and try to throw a little hard," Storen said. "I made the adjustment. That's the big thing. I'd probably be a little more frustrated if I didn't come back and find the zone."

Added Williams: "His velocity was good today. The first time out, he was all right."

Worth noting

• Shortstop Ian Desmond fell a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Desmond, whose solo homer in the top of the fifth put the Nationals ahead, 3-2, scored two runs and stole a base.

Eight players in franchise history have hit for the cycle. Only Brad Wilkerson and Cristian Guzman have accomplished the feat since the team moved to Washington, doing so in April 2005 and August 2008, respectively.

Bryce Harper finished 0-for-2 with a walk, a run scored and a fielding error in his return from the flu-like symptoms that bothered him on Sunday. He has three walks in six plate appearances in two games this spring.

• Hall of Famer and former Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Tuesday's contest.