KISSIMMEE, Florida — Stephen Strasburg pitched two scoreless innings in his spring debut for Washington, but Phil Gosselin took advantage of Nationals rookie manager Matt Williams' unusual defensive shift in the eighth inning to give the Atlanta Braves an 8-4 victory Tuesday.
Gosselin hit a bases-loaded triple to a vacated right field after Williams had ordered a five-man infield with one out and a tie game. The Braves added a fourth run in the inning and won for the first time in eight games this spring.
"We figured we'd try it," Williams said of the defensive ploy. "It's one of our plays in case we need it."
Gosselin, primarily a second baseman, was up briefly with the Braves last year, going 2 for 6 in four games. He is expected to start this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
"I wish they would take a defender off all the time," Gosselin said. "I'd seen it before in college, but I was a little surprised when they did it. The catcher said it was something they had been working on."
Until then, the attention was on Strasburg. Coming off October surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, he allowed one hit and needed only 15 pitches, 11 of them strikes, in his two innings. Justin Upton singled with one out in the second inning, but was erased on a double play.
"He could have gone another (inning), but we didn't want to push him," Williams said.
"I feel good," said Strasburg, who was 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA last season. "I threw some off-speed pitches and got some good results."
Washington's Ian Desmond was 3 for 3 with a homer, double and stolen base. The first-inning double was the only hit in three innings off Braves starter Kris Medlen, who walked one and struck out three.
Nationals: Strasburg has added a slider to go with his curveball, and he threw three against the Braves, including one that B.J. Upton swung through in the first inning for a strikeout.
"I want it to look like a fastball as much as possible," Strasburg said. "I'm not going to dump my other off-speed stuff, but I don't want them to be able to cheat on the fastball as much."
Braves: Medlen, the leading candidate to start the Braves' opener at Milwaukee on March 31, was also sharp. Of his 39 pitches, 25 were strikes.
"It felt much better," said Medlen, who allowed a run on two hits in his first start against Detroit. "The secondary pitches were there and my fastball location was good."
Nationals: Right fielder Jayson Werth is scheduled to make his spring debut Wednesday against the New York Mets after being sidelined by a strained right biceps. ... Left fielder Bryce Harper returned to the Washington lineup and was 0 for 2 with a walk against the Braves after being scratched Monday because of flu-like symptoms.
Braves: Left-hander Mike Minor, who was 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA last season, is scheduled to throw off the mound for the first time on Wednesday since being shut down after feeling shoulder discomfort early in camp. The soreness was blamed on trying to do too much too soon after a month of inactivity following urinary tract surgery on Dec. 31.
Veteran right-hander Gavin Floyd, signed by the Braves as a free agent, will also test where he stands on Wednesday, throwing batting practice for the first time. He had Tommy John surgery last May while with the Chicago White Sox and appears to be on target for a return about 12 months later.
The Nationals signed Mike Gonzalez to a minor league contract Tuesday and the veteran will have an opportunity to compete with Xavier Cedeno for the second left-handed spot in the bullpen.
The 35-year-old Gonzalez pitched for Washington in 2012 and had a 3.03 ERA in 47 games. He appeared in 75 games with Milwaukee last season, posting a 4.68 ERA.
"He's been around the block and knows how to get lefties out," Williams said. "It's a little late in the game, but we'll see where he's at."