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Braves struggle in 9-3 loss to Nationals
Hanson, Heyward held out of game
Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, right, celebrates with Nyjer Morgan after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning of a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves on Sundayin Viera, Fla. - photo by Charlie Riedel
VIERA, Fla. — Perhaps as soon as today, and certainly sometime in the next week, Scott Olsen and the other pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the Washington Nationals’ rotation will know whether they did enough to earn a job.

Until he gets the word, Olsen will be wondering.

“I mean, yeah, I think about it all the time, think about it every minute of the day,” the left-hander said. “As much as you try not to, the more you think about it.”

Olsen did what he could Sunday to make the team’s decision harder, throwing 5 1/3 solid innings in a 9-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

“He’s really made progress,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “He’s making a strong case for himself.”

Tommy Hanson was supposed to start for Atlanta on Sunday, but because rain was forecast, the Braves had him throw six innings in a minor league intrasquad game instead. Facing Triple-A batters, he threw 71 pitches, with one run, three hits, two walks and three strikeouts.

Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward also missed Sunday’s game. He was originally in the lineup but was scratched as a precaution because of shin splints.

“I’ll give him a couple of days off, and we’ll see what happens,” manager Bobby Cox said.

Olsen allowed seven hits and two runs — one earned — and struck out four while walking none. It was his best outing of the spring and far more effective than Olsen’s last start, when he gave up six runs and 12 hits in 4 1-3 innings against Detroit.

Against Atlanta, both runs Olsen allowed came off sacrifice flies hit by Chipper Jones.

“They started a lot of their regulars in the lineup,” Riggleman said, “and he was getting them out.”

Olsen made only 11 starts for Washington in 2009, going 2-4 with a 6.03 ERA before surgery on his left shoulder in July.

He has had some issues with getting his fastball back to where it was earlier in his career with the Florida Marlins, and there were hiccups this spring.

“It was real ugly there the first couple times out ... still building back strength and everything,” Olsen said. “But I think we’re way past that right now. I think we’re right where we need to be and ready to go for the season.”

Catcher Will Nieves thought Olsen was throwing the ball harder Sunday than in previous starts. Olsen appears to be competing with Livan Hernandez and J.D. Martin for a roster spot, while John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Garrett Mock and Craig Stammen look like they have locked up the other four rotation places.

Ryan Zimmerman hit his sixth homer of the spring in the first inning, a three-run shot off fill-in starter Scott Proctor. The Nationals scored three more off Jesse Chavez in the second, with Adam Dunn and Ian Desmond driving in runs.

Riggleman announced before the game that Desmond would be the team’s opening day shortstop, winning the job over incumbent Cristian Guzman. Desmond had two hits, two RBIs, two runs, a steal and a walk against Atlanta.

NOTES: The Braves optioned OF Gregor Blanco and RHP Luis Valdez to Triple-A Gwinnett. Valdez had visa issues and never reported to camp.  ... Braves SS Yunel Escobar didn’t make the trip Sunday because of tightness in his lower back. He missed a third consecutive game. C David Ross was out, too, after injuring his groin last week.
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