© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

03/20/11 7:14 PM ET

Nats comfortable leaning on Stairs in a pinch

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said there is a "good chance" first baseman/outfielder Matt Stairs will be on the 25-man roster to start the 2011 season.

Stairs, who signed a Minor League contract with Washington this past offseason, was 5-for-16 [.313] with three RBIs entering Sunday's action against the Tigers. Most of his playing time has come off the bench.

Stairs also is expected to join Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr. as a team leader on and off the field.

"We brought Matt in here because of what he has done in the past, and we see no indication that he can't do that," Riggleman said. "He has a real good chance of being on the club."

Stairs has been an excellent pinch-hitter over the years. Serving in that role during his career, Stairs has hit .263 with 23 home runs and 66 RBIs.

His most famous pinch-hit came in Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series, when he hit a two-run homer to lift the Phillies to a 7-5 victory over the Dodgers.

This spring, Stairs has purposely come off the bench to prepare for the season. With less than two weeks to go, Stairs most likely will get more at-bats at Minor League camp.

"When I pinch hit, I have tremendous concentration for one at-bat," Stairs said recently. "I enjoy playing -- that's for sure, but I enjoy getting up for the mindset of pinch-hitting late in the game."

Gorzelanny's effort might be rotation-clincher

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Tom Gorzelanny had his best outing of the spring on Sunday afternoon, pitching five innings and allowing two runs on four hits in a 6-1 loss to the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

Gorzelanny's only blemish came in the third inning, when he allowed a two-run homer to Don Kelly.

After the game, Riggleman indicated that Gorzelanny most likely will be the fifth starter.

"We brought him in as a starter. We didn't bring him in as a reliever," Riggleman said. "It would be very hard at this point not to have Gorzelanny in there."

Pudge scratched to get Morgan at-bats

VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez was scheduled to start against the Tigers as the designated hitter on Sunday, but was a late scratch as Washington wanted to see Nyjer Morgan get more at-bats.

Morgan is competing against Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina for the center-field job. Right now, Ankiel is favored to be the Opening Day starter.

Rodriguez agreed to sit out, and he will play seven innings against the Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday.

Balester 'making a case' for Nats' roster spot

VIERA, Fla. -- Based on the Spring Training numbers alone, Nationals right-hander Collin Balester should be on the 25-man roster. He has allowed two earned runs in 8 1/3 innings and struck out eight batters.

But manager Jim Riggleman indicated that Balester may start the season in the Minor Leagues.

"He has pitched well. He has certainly has not pitched his way off the club. That's for sure," Riggleman said . "We can say the same thing about [Cole] Kimball. He didn't pitch himself off the club. Bally is fighting the numbers game a little bit. So he's making a case for himself."

Zimmerman takes step toward return to games

VIERA, Fla. -- Ryan Zimmerman, who missed the last six games because of a left groin strain, participated in baseball activities Sunday.

However, manager Jim Riggleman doesn't know when Zimmerman will play in a Spring Training game. Riggleman indicated that he might wait and play Zimmerman after the club's off-day Wednesday.

"I'm just going to listen to the trainers on that one. They will tell me when to use him," Riggleman said.

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.