CIN@WSH: Rendon makes a nice barehanded play at third

ATLANTA -- Back in April, Anthony Rendon showed he could play Major League-caliber third base, filling in admirably in eight games for the injured Ryan Zimmerman.

Heading into June, it appears that the Nationals would like to see if their 2011 first-round Draft pick can do the same thing at second.

Rendon, the club's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday with the mission to get some action at both third and second.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who played 13 Major League seasons at second for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, stressed that even with Rendon's experience there in high school and college, and even after giving Rendon what he called a "crash course" in the footwork around second, that mastering the footing around the base is vital not only to playing the position but, more important, staying healthy.

"It's very important to learn footwork," he said. "It took me probably two months to where I didn't have to see the bag. I became comfortable with coming from that angle. You need to be able to get to the bag, know where it is, then go to the ball, step toward the ball, make your pivot and without looking down at the bag and putting your foot on it. Because all that takes time and then also, fundamentally, if you peak at all and don't have position, then you get hung up and you really get hurt. So the transition is important and footwork is important."

Syracuse manager Tony Beasley also will come in handy in helping Rendon make the transition.

"I think Beasley can help him a great deal about what's required of him over there," said Johnson. "Beasley knows his way around that bag real well and he'll be able to help him. So, if he's playing down there in games, he won't be at risk."

Washington's starting second baseman Danny Espinosa entered Saturday's game hitting .164 with three homers and 12 RBIs, but has valiantly battled injuries, as he's playing through a torn rotator cuff and a chip fracture in his right wrist.

Strasburg diagnosed with mild lat strain

WSH@ATL: Strasburg, Johnson on pitcher's early exit

ATLANTA -- The preliminary report on Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg's injury came in on Saturday afternoon and while there is indeed an injury, it's not quite where originally reported.

Strasburg flew back to Washington following Friday night's 3-2 win over the Braves, during which he was removed from the game with what was diagnosed as a strained right oblique after pitching a career-low two innings. Strasburg had an MRI on Saturday, and while the injury is near the oblique, it's not the oblique.

"It's a lat and it's down low," said Nationals head trainer Lee Kuntz. "It also happens to be where your oblique comes around and inserts. The MRI showed that it was a lat strain. A Grade I lat strain."

Grade I is the lowest level.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said prior to Saturday night's game that the team would wait before putting Strasburg on the disabled list. Johnson still hopes the right-hander can make his next start.

"We'll see how he feels. We have an off-day Monday. He can be pushed back, which means he can throw Tuesday. If he's not having any discomfort, if it's letting up, if it's not grabbing him, he will start," said Johnson. "But if it's bothering him, he'll probably miss his start."

Kuntz echoed Johnson's analysis. 

"We're going to wait and see how he feels," he said. "We're going to treat it right now and play it by ear."

Strasburg, who had pitched through the pain in his previous starts has a 3-5 record with a 2.54 ERA and was among National League leaders in innings, strikeouts, and strikeouts per nine innings. He was 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA over his last four starts, including Friday night.

Davis gets opportunity to help out bullpen

ATLANTA -- With Bryce Harper going on the disabled list, the Nationals called up right-hander Erik Davis from Triple-A Syracuse.

Davis was 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA (eight earned runs in 24 innings) in 21 appearances for the Chiefs, all in relief.

The Nationals bullpen was heavily taxed by having to fill seven innings Friday night and with Craig Stammen, who pitched four innings, out for the next couple of days, the club felt better served with another arm in the bullpen.

"I was thrilled. This is anybody's dream that plays baseball," said the 26-year-old Davis, who found out he was coming up following Syracuse's 9-8, 12-inning loss. "To get it, especially here with a team that really is doing things in baseball, it makes me feel special that they value what I do and I want to contribute any way I can."

Davis had a feeling something was up, as he didn't pitch Friday despite the game going long. But he remained cautious, having also recently found out the hard way about the unpredictability of awaiting the call.

"I was actually told two weeks ago that I was getting called up for about 20 minutes and they called me back," said the native of San Jose, Calif., and a college teammate of Nats reliever Drew Storen at Stanford, who was acquired by Washington from San Diego on March 28, 2011. "That was when they were in San Francisco and that's where I'm from. So that was kind of tough. But it's all worth it now. I'm certainly not the first or the last person that's ever going to happen to and just to be in the discussion, that makes me very proud."

Davis had been a starter up until 2012, when he proved to be a valuable piece of the bullpen at Double-A Harrisburg and Syracuse, going a combined 8-3, with five saves and a 2.71 ERA in 48 games.

He feels his versatility will come in handy in Washington.

A close follower of current Nats lefty Tyler Clippard, Davis has found success using the changeup and is ready to use it in whatever role he's needed.

"I'm ready to do whatever they need," he said. "I've done everything in my career, from starting to closing. I probably won't do either of those two. I can do anything in between."

Worth noting

• Detwiler resumed "baseball activities" prior to Saturday night's game, which included running and tossing, the latter without pain.

"I felt nothing today," said Detwiler, who went on the disabled list with an oblique strain on May 27, retroactive to May 16. "If I felt anything, I'm under strict order to shut it down. I did not shut it down today."

• To commemorate Heritage Weekend, the Nationals donned the uniforms of the Homestead Grays of the Negro League. The Grays played some of their home games at Griffith Stadium from 1937-48. Atlanta wore the uniforms of the Atlanta Black Crackers.