Nationals manager Davey Johnson returned most of his regulars to the starting lineup Thursday afternoon as the Nationals prepared for a steamy matinee with the Florida Marlins but there were still a few tweaks to that lineup.
With the Nationals facing newly-recalled left-hander Brad Hand, Roger Bernadina found himself out of the starting lineup for the second straight day — Wednesday for rest, Thursday for matchups — with Jerry Hairston Jr. playing center and leading off in his place. The newest National, Jonny Gomes, also got his first start with his new team, playing left field and batting sixth.
Behind him was Ian Desmond, a bump up from the eighth spot he’d been relegated to for much of the Davey Johnson era, and an attempt to let Desmond use his speed a little more on the basepaths. Wilson Ramos started behind him in the eighth spot.
“There was a lot of things,” Johnson said when asked what went into the decision to alter the bottom of his lineup. “Number one, I get more speed in front of (Ramos). I can run Desmond more often. (Ramos) has been struggling, Ramos, and but the main thing is that I’ve got some speed in front of him.
“I did a survey of my coaches on it and four of them agreed with me. There was one dissenter.”
That was enough for Johnson, who wouldn’t reveal the rogue voter. Desmond has been seemingly coming out of the prolonged slump that has hampered him for much of this season, hitting .304 in his last 16 games — and walking seven times in that span. He’s been a bit more selective, as Johnson wanted him to be, in the eight-hole but unable to run much when he does reach base because the pitcher follows him to the plate. Desmond has stolen 20 bases this season, but none since June 28.
– Chien-Ming Wang will start Friday night for the Nationals, his first major league start since 2009. He’ll be reunited with a big league mound and his trademark sinker, as Nathan Fenno writes.
Johnson said he expects the right-hander to remain in the 80-90 pitch range Friday night and that he’ll treat it more like a pitcher’s first start out of spring training than anything. Wang making the start also means the Nationals will have to 1. make a roster move to clear space for him on the active roster and 2. put Tom Gorzelanny in the bullpen — at least for the day.
As for the move, Ross Detwiler looks to be the most likely candidate since he and Gorzelanny would be serving the same role, at least for a day, but it would be an unfortunate loss for the Nationals as Detwiler has performed well in his new role as a long man and there are not guarantees Gorzelanny will do the same. Gorzelanny also may be in line for a start in the Atlanta series, Johnson said, but everything is pending the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
“I would have him coming back one day shorter, instead of Tuesday, probably Monday,” Johnson said of Gorzelanny’s next appearance. “The almighty trading deadline is coming Sunday. All that I just told you could go out the window. He would start, but again, the trade deadline
“As I told (the players) the other day, these things are kind of up in the air because you just don’t know. I did tell the players that there is a lot of interest in some of the players on our ballclub. Be that as it may, I know we’re going to have to do at least one thing. Last I checked I could count. What that is, I don’t know.”