The Washington Times - July 19, 2011, 08:21PM

HOUSTON — With the Nationals facing the first left-handed starter since Davey Johnson took over as manager three weeks ago, he went with a bit of a different lineup. Leadoff man Roger Bernadina was dropped to the seventh spot and Danny Espionsa and Ian Desmond took up residence atop the lineup.

It doesn’t sound as though this is going to be a permanent or even semi-permanent change. A lot of it had to do with the team facing a left-hander, as well as Laynce Nix sitting while Jerry Hairston Jr. got his first start back from the disabled list. 

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It also allowed Johnson to reward Desmond for his play of late, particularly defensively, and his .310 average since July 6, by moving him out of the No. 8 spot for a game.

“He swung the bat the last week really good for me and got some big hits,” Johnson said. “You can’t run as much in the eight hole because the pitcher’s up. He’s played such a great defensive shortstop, made unbelievable plays and the future of this ballclub is a young player like him so he’s going to get more at-bats and that’s what he needs, just more at-bats.”

As for what he expects Espinosa to do in the leadoff spot? The same thing he’s been doing this season with 17 homers and 55 RBI. “Get on base,” Johnson said. “Double, home run is OK too.”

“If he gets on late in the ballgame, I can bunt him over,” Johnson said. “I’d rather bunt Desmond than have it reversed. I’d rather if Espinosa hits a double, Desmond can get a base hit to right. He goes that way pretty good. I’ve thought about it before now.

“I woke up early and I thought ‘You know, I’m going to give a pat on the back for Desi’s play and take a little heat off Bernadina, drop him down and play Hairston.’”

– The Nationals designated reliever Chad Gaudin for assignment Tuesday, shortly after the right-hander completed a rehab assignment. 

Gaudin, who had been on the disabled list since April, had been trying to be stretched out at Triple-A Syracuse. The Nationals were angling for the former Yankee to pitch out of their bullpen as a long man, as they intended when he made the club out of spring training as a minor league free agent. 

Gaudin made just 10 appearances for the Nationals this season, tossing 8 1/3 innings, allowing 12 hits, six earned runs, one home run and walking eight. He struck out 10 before hitting the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Gaudin began a rehab assignment on June 19. His 30 days ran out Tuesday and with no room for him on the major league roster the Nationals were forced to DFA him.

 In eight minor league rehab appearances, Gaudin was 0-2 with a 3.52 ERA. He allowed six earned runs in 15 1/3 innings off 19 hits and three walks. He struck out 14.

– Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez took live batting practice today and didn’t appear to have any issues though he did not let everything go. He’s eligible to come off the DL from a right oblique strain on Friday, a date that is still very much in play but the next two days will be paramount in his recovery.

– Single-A Potomac infielder Justin Bloxom was hospitalized Tuesday after experiencing symptoms of internal bleeding due to an ulcer. He is in stable condition and is expected to be back in the P-Nats lineup next week.