VIERA, Fla. -- The last time Bill Bray was here in spring camp, things were noticeably different.
The year was 2006, Bray was set to debut in the big leagues after being selected by the Expos in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and the Nationals would go on to lose 91 games and finish in last place in the National League East.
"Not much has changed, just new paint," Bray joked. "Now I'm one of the older guys."
Bray, 29, after spending six seasons in the Reds' organization, is trying to make a comeback with the same organization that drafted him. Only that organization has made a major turn and is the defending NL East champions.
Bray was signed on Dec. 3 as a non-roster invitee and has a fine chance to contribute as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. He's trying to recover from a difficult 2012 -- in which he had a 5.19 ERA in 14 appearances with the Reds, while often sidelined by back and groin problems.
"That injury last year wrecked everything," Bray said. "It messed up my back. The groin blew first, then I tried to pitch through it and that changed the arm angle, and the list goes on and on. It's a laundry list of things that happened last year that I worked almost every day this winter to fix and I'm still working on. I'm out here every day working on my mechanics to get back to where I was. It's gonna be a constant process."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Bray's delivery is noticeably different, but his arm strength remains the same. As Bray puts it, the injury to his lower body affected much of his motion, but he believes he's as strong as he ever was. And he knows he has very little room for error at this stage in the game.
"I'm ready to go," Bray said. "I'm still tweaking things, still working through things, but I'm still ready to go. I don't think at this point, with the way Spring Trainings are and the way baseball is in general, I don't think as a guy who's not on the roster, you can afford to come in and not be prepared."
Zimmerman tabbed for some spring DH duty
VIERA, Fla. -- Manager Davey Johnson said he's planning to use Ryan Zimmerman as a designated hitter during parts of Spring Training, as the Nationals' third baseman recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
Zimmerman had arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right shoulder, which troubled him for most of 2012, in late October with a timetable of six weeks set for recovery.
His batting practice this spring has been limited to the cages and he's only slowly started a throwing regimen. Johnson said Zimmerman should be ready for Spring Training games about two weeks into the schedule, and he intends to utilize the designated hitter as a way to get Zimmerman his at-bats.
"He looked natural. Free and easy," Johnson said of Zimmerman's throwing on Tuesday.
"If he's getting a few at-bats toward his 50 total ... you don't want to sit too long. When you start playing games, anybody's gonna feel the urgency of wanting to get in there," Johnson said. "I want to go real slow with all the problems he's had -- the shoulder, offseason surgery -- and he had no problem with it."