LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche and Braves right-hander Tim Hudson have been close friends since 2005, when they were teammates in Atlanta.
Hudson is known to play inside jokes on LaRoche and it happened during the Braves' 4-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday. With one out in the top of the second inning, LaRoche entered the batter's box and signaled to Hudson to throw a knuckleball.
No problem. Hudson threw a 47-mph knuckleball that went for a ball. Hudson is not known to throw such a pitch. Both Hudson and LaRoche chuckled, but on Hudson's next pitch, LaRoche singled to right field.
"He is such a buddy of mine," LaRoche said. "Another [time], he went to switch balls and then threw one at my head. The ball went all the way to the backstop. He likes having fun, apparently. I gave him the knuckleball signal walking up. I didn't think he would do it. I should have known better."
Hudson said he was working on the pitch this spring and decided to throw it after LaRoche gave him the sign to do so.
"I was going to wait until the All-Star break to break it out, but it's been so good lately," Hudson said. "He looked at me like, 'Knuckleball? Ha, ha, ha. So I did it and it was almost a strike. It was close. It was over the plate, just a little down."
There was another time, LaRoche flew out deep in the outfield against Hudson, who then threw a rosin bag at LaRoche's chest.
"He is always picking on me," LaRoche joked.
Soriano slated to pitch Friday after root canal
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals reliever Rafael Soriano had root canal surgery on Thursday, but manager Davey Johnson wasn't sure if the problem was entirely fixed. Soriano is scheduled to pitch in relief on Friday against the Tigers and throw in back-to-back games next week.
"I had a few of those and they are not much fun. I just hope he got enough Novocain so it didn't really hurt too bad," Johnson said. "He should be fine. I think it was just in the early stages. [The doctors] were worried that it could be an abscess. So they nipped it in the bud."
Soriano has pitched in five games, allowing six runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Ramos excited to go distance behind plate
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos did something on Thursday he hasn't done since last May. He played a full game behind the plate against the Braves, who defeated the Nationals, 4-3, at Champion Stadium.
The best moment came in the first inning, when Ramos threw out Andrelton Simmons trying to steal third base. Not bad for a guy who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on May 12, 2012, against the Reds.
"I'm very excited right now for this step in my career," Ramos said. "It's the first time I caught eight innings after I had surgery."
Ramos feels he is in the best shape since entering the big leagues. He lost weight, learning after the knee surgery that he needed to take better care of his body.
"I feel more strong. I feel more light behind the plate," Ramos said. "I'm blocking the ball pretty good. I feel very strong behind the plate. So, I'm very, very excited for this moment."
Haren gets more of a grip in followup start
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Last week, Nationals right-hander Dan Haren had a dead arm and his worst outing, allowing five runs in five innings against the Cardinals.
On Thursday, Haren was much better in a 4-3 loss against the Braves. Although he allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings, Haren threw the ball much better. It helped that he changed the grip on his split-finger fastball. Haren got off to a slow start, allowing three runs in the second inning. But starting in the third, Haren retired nine straight hitters.
Haren left the game in the sixth inning after having a tough time getting hitters out. He threw 90 pitches, 59 for strikes.
"I was frustrated with the way I finished. The [second] inning, another 0-2 hit. It has kind of burned me the last couple of starts," Haren said. "I changed a few things. There were some offspeed pitches and I was having success in the middle innings. Overall it was a lot better. I felt a thousand times better. That's good."
Nats reliever Kimball has shoulder stiffness
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Nationals reliever Cole Kimball has not pitched in seven days because of stiffness in the back of his shoulder, according to manager Davey Johnson. The injury is not considered serious.
However, Kimball had a bullpen session on Wednesday without any problems. Kimball, who has pitched in seven games this spring, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings, has a history of shoulder problems. He missed most of the 2011 and '12 seasons because of rotator cuff surgery.
"Knowing Kimball, I wasn't there, but I'm sure he was dressed and ready to make this trip [against the Braves]," Johnson 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.