VIERA, Fla. -- In need of a catcher, the Astros are looking at Jesus Flores as a possible replacement for Jason Castro -- who is out for the season because of a knee injury -- according to a baseball source.
However, Houston is concerned about Flores' right shoulder, which has kept him off the diamond for almost two years. Flores is healthy now, but has yet to be challenged in terms of trying to throw out runners this spring.
For the first time since moving to Washington, the Nats have catching depth and could trade Flores.
th Ivan Rodriguez will start the season as Washington's Opening Day catcher, while Wilson Ramos is considered the team's backstop of the future. Derek Norris most likely will start the season in the Minors. According to many in the Nats' organization, Norris already has a big league bat, but is making strides behind the plate.
Catcher Norris draws praise from Riggleman
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman raved about catcher Derek Norris on Monday morning, calling him one of the most impressive players in camp and comparing him to former Nats outfielder Josh Willingham in terms of knowing the strike zone. After all, Norris has an on-base percentage of .414 during his four years in professional baseball.
Not only is Norris an above-average hitter, he has made strides behind the plate, according to Riggleman.
"He really looks good at the plate. His catching is coming along," Riggleman said. "We really think he is going to be a big league catcher. You like to give respect to the guys who have done it. He kind of gives you that Willingham feeling up there as a hitter. He is kind of built like Willingham, knows the strike zone like Willingham and we think he is going to have similar power like Willingham."
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
The Nats are loaded with quality catchers, including Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores and Jhonatan Solano. Is there any talk of Norris switching positions?
"Right now, he is a catcher, period," Riggleman said about Norris. "He really got his game together in the [Arizona Fall League]. He was more aggressive in the Fall League and here in Spring Training.
"We feel like he is going to catch, period. The strides he has made with our instructors throughout the system and [assistant general manager] Bob Boone, we are really seeing that he can catch. That's where it's at."
Last season, Norris played for Class A Hagerstown and Potomac, and he hit a combined .235 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs. He missed time because of a wrist injury and a concussion suffered after being hit by a pitch.
Kasten at camp for first time since resigning
VIERA, Fla. -- Stan Kasten visited the Nationals on Monday morning. It was his first appearance in camp since resigning as the team's president.
Although he still has a stake in the team, he doesn't work for the franchise and declined to say what he plans to do in the future.
"I've been doing a lot of miscellaneous stuff I don't like to talk about," Kasten said. "I can't talk about anything today, but I have been very busy. I've been moving around quite a bit. I'm working on a whole lot of things, but I'm glad I have the time to get down here this week."
Kasten said he pays attention to the Nationals and the moves they made this offseason. He believes they can improve as long as they have healthy starting pitching.
"They had a very active, aggressive offseason, and I'm certainly in favor of aggressiveness," Kasten said. "Let's keep our fingers crossed. If they don't have the injuries that they had last year in the rotation, they are going to improve. Other than that, they look like they have a lot more quality, too. It's very exciting, I think."
Harper quiets heckler with two-run double
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper had his best spring game on Monday afternoon, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs in a 14-9 victory against the Astros, and raising his Spring Training average to .308 in the process.
Harper's most impressive hit came during his second at-bat in the eighth inning. The team had already scored six runs in the inning. With Harper at the plate, one fan in the stands yelled, "Overrated, overrated." On the next pitch from reliever Jorge De Leon, Harper doubled near the right-field line, scoring Matt Stairs and Alex Cora.
Harper acknowledged that he heard the heckling from the fan.
"You can hear everything out there," Harper said. "You can't really get into that. I've been hearing it since I was in high school, college. It doesn't get old because I love it. I love hearing it. I love people saying that stuff about me. I like all the bad stuff."
All though he is hitting over .300, Harper believes it's hard facing opposing pitchers he has never seen. He also said he's not in a hitting groove. He needs at least 30 or 40 at-bats to feel comfortable in the batter's box.
"It's always going to be hard," Harper said about facing opposing pitchers. "I think it was Ted Williams who said, 'I hate hitting in All-Star Games and against rookies.' He had never seen them before. So going up there and seeing guys you have never seen before, especially relievers and closers, they are going to come at you with sliders, knuckleballs, split fingers, everything they have in their kitchen sink.
"I'm still going out there every day and getting things going. It's hard not starting every game. I'm sitting inside the dugout and it feels like I want to fall asleep, but I'm just trying to get things going. There are many things that I need in Spring Training that could really help you out."
Despite results, Storen pleased with outing
VIERA, Fla. -- The numbers say Nationals reliever Drew Storen didn't have a good outing Monday, allowing two runs (one earned) in one inning. It didn't help that the team played below average defense behind him.
But manager Jim Riggleman said Storen was told to throw more fastballs than usual. The club wants him to have more fastball command.
"[For Storen], the results are not going to look as good as he actually threw," Riggleman said. "We are trying to get him to have better command of his fastball a little more, so we are insisting that he throws more fastballs, which is going to get him hit a little bit if he is not using all of his weapons."
Storen said he was happy with the team's decision to throw more fastballs.
"It was kind of the big thing we were talking about -- fastball command," Storen said. "I really concentrated on it today. I was happy with the way I threw the ball. It's just that things didn't go my way. I didn't like the results, but the way I pitched was a lot better -- a big step ahead than the last time. The last time was not where I wanted to be."
Storen is competing with Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard and Henry Rodriguez for the closer role. Thus far, Storen has allowed six earned runs in three innings.
Gorzelanny to make first start Thursday
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Tom Gorzelanny will pitch in his first Major League Spring Training game Thursday against the Mets at Space Coast Stadium.
Gorzelanny fell behind a lot of the pitchers because he had a bad case of the flu.
The veteran left-hander, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, most likely will pitch three innings.
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.