John­son aims to put Lom­bar­dozzi’s ver­sa­til­ity to use and get him at-bats

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY AMANDA COMAK

JUPITER, FLA. | With Open­ing Day draw­ing near, Washington Na­tion­als man­ager Davey John­son has reached the point of spring train­ing where he’s mak­ing sure he’s ex­hausted all op­tions while whit­tling the ros­ter to 25.

Ques­tion marks sur­round the health of left fielder Michael Morse (lat strain), closer Drew Storen (el­bow-joint in­flam­ma­tion), starter Chien-ming Wang (ham­string strain) and, per­haps to a lesser ex­tent, first base­man Adam Laroche (foot bone bruise). So John­son has been run­ning through his con­tin­gency plans.

Use Brad Lidge and Henry Ro­driguez in save sit­u­a­tions? Check. Put Steve Lom­bar­dozzi in left field? Sure. Get Chad Tracy 56 at-bats and a slew of play­ing time at first base? He’s done that.

Give catcher Je­sus Flores a first base­man’s mitt?

“No,” John­son said. “I mean, it did cross my mind at about 3 in the morn­ing.”

See­ing Lom­bar­dozzi in left field, as he was Tues­day dur­ing the Na­tion­als’ 31 loss to the Mar­lins, cer­tainly is more likely than the backup catcher shed­ding his gear for a corner in­field spot.

It was the sec­ond start for the nat­u­ral sec­ond base­man in the out­field. While it may seem like an in­di­ca­tion that Lom­bar­dozzi — who the Na­tion­als view as an ev­ery­day player — could be a pri­mary can­di­date for left field if Morse starts the year on the dis­abled list, not so fast.

“I wouldn’t read into it,” John­son said. “I con­sider Lombo an ev­ery­day player at sec­ond base, in­field, but I also want to use the flex­i­bil­ity of putting him in sit­u­a­tions where I can give him at­bats. That’s all I’d read into it.

“It’s no se­cret I like watch­ing Lombo play.”

Lom­bar­dozzi al­ready had played sec­ond base, short­stop and third this spring be­fore be­ing shifted to the out­field for the first time last week. John­son even con­sid­ered get­ting him a first base­man’s mitt as well and es­sen­tially max­ing out his ver­sa­til­ity, but it didn’t come to that. Lom­bar­dozzi, who played left for four in­nings Tues­day, is a strong can­di­date for a bench spot, but the one con­di­tion is that John­son has to feel he’ll be able to get Lom­bar­dozzi at least 300 at-bats in the ma­jors. Find­ing out now if he could play the out­field is an­other out­let for them to be able to do that.

“I’m kind of giv­ing him a crash course in util­ity,” John­son said, though not­ing Tues­day likely would be Lom­bar­dozzi’s final start in the out­field. “It’d be one thing if I was try­ing to make him a util­ity player. I’m not. I’m try­ing to give him ex­pe­ri­ence at dif­fer­ent spots for a need that might come up on the team.”

The early ob­ser­va­tions have been good. Third base coach Bo Porter, who works with the out­field­ers, said af­ter Lom­bar­dozzi’s first ap­pear­ance in the out­field that he al­ready was “com­fort­able” with him out there. Lom­bar­dozzi was the vic­tim of in­ex­pe­ri­ence Tues­day when a dou­ble to the left-field corner scooted past him and turned into three bases for Mar­lins short­stop Jose Reyes.

It was the op­po­site when Gon­za­lez gave up three runs to the Mar­lins on Tues­day. “Over­throw­ing,” John­son said. But a word from in­fielder Mark Derosa and pitch­ing coach Steve Mccatty helped Gon­za­lez set­tle in and start a run of four score­less in­nings. He al­lowed seven hits and a walk with six strike­outs.

“[Derosa] said, ‘Hey, you’re rush­ing a lit­tle bit, you’re fly­ing open,’” Gon­za­lez said. “Af­ter that I set­tled in, stayed back, kept my shoul­ders in and just felt like I was more on top of the ball. ... I’m glad that I set­tled down and stopped the bleed­ing im­me­di­ately.”

Gon­za­lez will make one more start this spring, in Jupiter on Sun­day. Ul­ti­mately, five of his seven spring starts will come at Roger Dean Sta­dium.


Na­tion­als in­fielder Steve Lom­bar­dozzi has been given time in the out­field to af­ford him ex­pe­ri­ence at dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.

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