WSH@LAD: Ramos comes up lame, forced to exit early

WASHINGTON -- Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was the designated hitter for Class A Potomac on Wednesday and is scheduled to return to the Nationals on Thursday to start his first Major League game since May 16, when he suffered a left hamstring strain against the Dodgers.

Ramos went 0-for-3 with a walk in the rehab appearance.

"He is running good, feeling good. It will be good to get him back," manager Davey Johnson said.

Besides being an excellent catcher, Ramos will provide power to Washington's lineup. He was hitting .250 with two home runs and six RBIs in 44 games before he was placed on the disabled list. Ramos is expected to split playing time with Kurt Suzuki behind the plate.

The Nationals also signed veteran Kelly Shoppach to a Minor League deal on Wednesday as an insurance policy.

Rehabbing Haren throws simulated game

WSH@BAL: Haren fans five over 7 1/3 strong innings

WASHINGTON -- Nationals right-hander Dan Haren threw a three-inning simulated game at Nationals Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Haren faced Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi, and Tyler Moore during the outing, and Haren was able to throw all of his pitches without any problems. Haren threw a lot of split-fingered fastballs and changed his grip on the ball while throwing the pitch.

"I changed my grip with it so I can get a bigger difference in velocity. In the end, I was told I was getting it a little bit better," Haren said. "When your arm feels fresh, it's not just the fastball, everything else is going to feel a little bit better."

Haren, who is on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation, said resting the shoulder did a world of good. The ball came out of his hand a lot easier, and he was able to raise his arm a lot more while throwing the ball.

"With the rest, I was going to feel fresh. Hopefully that's what I needed to get back doing some good things in helping the ballclub," Haren said. "I'm getting the ball to where I usually do. Before, the last couple of games, I always long tossed between starts and before the game, and it was a struggle to get the ball there. My arm is moving faster."

Moore was impressed by what he saw from Haren.

"The cutter was very late. The splitter, he was throwing for strikes and a chase pitch. It was real good. I was impressed with what he had," Moore said. "It was hot. He kept wanting the ball. He is a competitor, whether we are doing a [simulated] game. He wants to be on the mound, he has fun with it. He wants to go at guys. He was great."

Haren is expected to have a bullpen session in two days and hopes to start on Tuesday against the Phillies.

Espinosa still struggling in Minors

CHC@WSH: Espinosa slaps two-run double in the fifth

WASHINGTON -- Since returning to the Minor Leagues, second baseman Danny Espinosa has struggled at the plate, going 6-for-64 (.094) with 33 strikeouts for Triple-A Syracuse entering Wednesday.

Manager Davey Johnson has been watching Espinosa on his computer and believes he needs to improve his mental approach at the plate. Johnson has always believed that Espinosa can be a quality hitter in the big leagues. There is no timetable as to when Espinosa will return to the Major Leagues, but Johnson believes he will be back before the season is over.

"I think he has a misguided opinion that it's OK to hit .220 and hit 20 home runs," Johnson said. "He has the talent to be a real good hitter and put the ball in play. It's kind of like playing golf. You want to hit the fairways and greens before you want to hit it 300 yards in the woods.

"He is very motivated, very driven young man. He'll get it, but he is also hard headed. He reminds me a lot of myself. He'll get it."

Espinosa has dealt with a torn left rotator cuff and a broken right wrist this season, and Johnson believes Espinosa is 100 percent healthy.