VIERA, Fla. -- Henry Rodriguez is dealing with "soreness" in his throwing elbow, and though the Nationals insist it's nothing serious, it does at least create the possibility of an available job in the club's Opening Day bullpen.
Rodriguez, who had surgery last summer to remove bone chips in his right elbow, has been brought along slowly this spring but has seen his workload increase over the last week. He pitched five times in a nine-day span from March 14-22 and over his last three innings has allowed three runs while issuing six walks.
Manager Davey Johnson said he's been expecting Rodriguez to experience some soreness with the increased workload and wasn't surprised to learn of the problem this morning.
"It's probably a little inflammation from throwing a lot," Johnson said. "I was expecting that earlier."
The plan, for now, is to see how Rodriguez feels tomorrow and then perhaps have him throw off a bullpen mound on Tuesday. Given the reliever's injury history, the Nationals will take a cautious approach.
"It's not something I'm going to rush him," Johnson said. "I'll go by how he feels."
At this point, the Nationals aren't saying Rodriguez's status for Opening Day is in doubt, but they do have options if he needs to begin the season on the disabled list. Veteran left-hander J.C. Romero signed a minor-league contract on Friday and got enough work in the World Baseball Classic to suggest he's close to ready for game action.