WASHINGTON -- The Nationals' offense struggled mightily in its first 48 regular season games, but manager Davey Johnson said before Saturday's game that his biggest worry is not the bats, but the bullpen.
"That's my biggest concern, getting those roles established in the bullpen," Johnson said. "I don't want to get buried with [Tyler Clippard] and [Rafael] Soriano. I need to get some other guys where they are comfortable and mentally prepared for their roles. That keeps me up more than actually the offense, because I really feel the offense is going to come around."
Fernando Abad and Henry Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning Saturday night. Abad struck out one and touched 96 mph in his Nationals debut. But former closer Drew Storen surrendered two earned runs in the eighth inning to take the loss, further clouding the bullpen picture.
Before the game, Johnson specifically mentioned Craig Stammen as someone who could see a different role in the bullpen. Stammen has a 2.78 ERA in 12 appearances this season, and Johnson has mostly used the 29-year-old as a middle reliever. But with the loss of Ryan Mattheus (broken right hand) and the addition of Abad, a southpaw, Johnson said the bullpen is in flux. Stammen could start working later innings.
"Earlier on this year, I was going to have Mattheus on one side and Henry on one side and then I would have Clip and Storen accordingly, Clip being for left-handers and Storen being there for right-handers," Johnson said. "And not having the configuration I had last year, it's been a little harder to separate and get the kind of balance you want on both sides of the bullpen."
Kobernus: Joining Nats is 'dream come true'
WASHINGTON -- Nationals utility man Jeff Kobernus was preparing for batting practice in Columbus, Ohio, when Triple-A Syracuse manager Tony Beasley pulled him aside and let him know that he would be playing in the big leagues for the first time.
The first call Kobernus made was to his father, also Jeff, who pitched in the Minor Leagues from 1981 to 1985 but never made it past Double-A. The 24-year-old heard his father crying on the other end of the line.
"I called my dad first and then my mom," Kobernus said before Saturday's game. "My dad, he was crying, which was kind of one of those things where he's helped me a lot through my career and it was a dream come true to be able to call him and tell him to come out."
Kobernus made his Major League debut at Nationals Park on Saturday night against the Phillies, pinch-running for Tyler Moore in the eighth inning. Kobernus stayed in the game in the ninth, replacing Moore in left field and ranging into foul territory to catch a Ben Revere fly ball in the first at-bat of the inning.
"It's exciting. It's definitely nice to get in there and kind of get your feet wet," Kobernus said after the Nationals' 5-3 loss. "It's a little different playing in front of that many people, but it was exciting to be a part of. Unfortunately we didn't come out with the win, but it was exciting."
Before the game, Kobernus said his parents caught a flight from California at 6 a.m. PT Saturday morning in order to arrive in Washington before first pitch. He looked for them during the game and finally spotted them sitting just behind home plate. Kobernus said his father and mother, Margie, will stay in town for the Nationals' homestand, which ends Tuesday.
When one reporter joked that Kobernus should ask manager Davey Johnson for extra playing time while his parents are in town, the 24-year-old utility man only laughed. But Johnson, in his pregame news conference, said that Kobernus could start as soon as Sunday.
"He's much needed right now, with [Danny] Espinosa out, because [Kobernus] can play second base and he can also play the outfield," Johnson said. "With a right-handed bat, last night I didn't even have a right-handed bat on the bench, except my catcher, but I'm not going to use my catcher. [Kobernus] has had a real good year down there [at Syracuse], he's been swinging the heck out of the bat."
Kobernus, the Nationals' No. 16 prospect, mostly played in the outfield in 43 games with Syracuse. He was batting .333 (58-for-174) with eight doubles, 20 RBIs and 13 walks before being called up. He also ranked among the International League's leaders in stolen bases (second with 21) and hits (third with 58).
The Tigers selected Kobernus in the Rule 5 Draft in December, but he was sent back to the Nationals in March. Johnson said he likes the flexibility that Kobernus brings with experience at second base and in the outfield. The Nationals' manager also likes his newest player's approach at the plate.
"We were always high on him as an infielder as one of our top prospects," Johnson said. "And then when he got some at-bats this spring, I again liked where he was at. He was a tough out."
Kobernus is likely just a short-term solution while Espinosa recovers from a fractured right wrist and Jayson Werth rehabs a strained hamstring. But as he sat in front of his first Major League locker and pulled out a fresh No. 26 jersey, Kobernus said he hopes to make the most of his opportunity.
"I mean, it's like a dream come true," Kobernus said. "It didn't really seem true until I walked in the clubhouse today. But it was definitely exciting."
Detwiler cleared to start vs. O's on Tuesday
WASHINGTON -- Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler's bullpen session went well on Saturday afternoon, and manager Davey Johnson said he has been cleared to start against the Orioles on Tuesday.
Detwiler said he threw "a little harder" than usual and took a five-minute break to simulate the rest between innings. He wanted to be absolutely sure that his right oblique, which caused him to miss his last start, will not create more problems.
"Any time you get healthy again, it's definitely going to be a relief," Detwiler said. "I kind of went and threw a little harder today than I normally would, just so I wouldn't have any, I wouldn't hold back anything. I proved to myself that I was healthy and I'm ready to go."
Nats plan to get Moore consistent at-bats
WASHINGTON -- After the Nationals' 5-2 win over the Phillies on Friday night, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he wants to give Tyler Moore consistent at-bats to help him snap out of his recent funk.
"I'm going to stay with Tyler Moore," Johnson said Friday. "He hasn't been swinging the bat at all like he's capable of swinging. Hopefully he'll get right."
Moore is batting .139 (10-for-72) this season after going 1-for-3 with a single and a walk on Saturday night. After getting only sparse at-bats in April, Moore has played more regularly since Jayson Werth went on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Last season, Moore batted .263 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs.
"I know I'm not swinging the bat good and haven't done it all year, but just those small sparks kind of get your confidence up and kind of get you going," Moore said Friday. "I know I'm not a .120 hitter. It eventually is going to turn around.
"That's awesome to get some at-bats. You come in the clubhouse and it's a different mentality when you know you're going to play. It kind of gets you settled in a little bit more and kind of takes the pressure off."
Johnson explained that he doesn't like having young players sit on the bench. After playing every day in the Minor Leagues, they have to adopt a different mentality off the bench. Johnson hopes that a few more at-bats will help young players like Moore and Steve Lombardozzi, who had three hits Friday night, regain their confidence.
"I told Tyler, I was growing this for him, to change his luck," Johnson said, referring to the wisps of gray hair on his chin. "But partially, I am. I put him in the same class with Lombo. … He could be an everyday player on another ballclub."
• Johnson said Friday that he would not shave until the Nationals' offense heated up. The team's five runs and 10 hits Friday night were a good start, but not enough to have Johnson reaching for a razor.
"My wife said I could keep it one more day," Johnson said Saturday. "The fuzz I got, it's gray, are you kidding me? You can't hardly see it. If you got my eyes, I can't see it, unless I put my glasses on."
• After pitching with a stiff neck Friday night, Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann said he will make his next start and that the stiffness is nothing to worry about.
Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.