The Washington Times - March 28, 2012, 09:24AM

Davey Johnson hinted Tuesday to reporters that he had something up his sleeve for Wednesday’s game. First baseman Adam LaRoche is close to returning, Johnson felt, but “There’ll be another option tomorrow.”

As Johnson was talking, Nationals outfielder Brett Carroll was taking grounders at first base leading to some speculation (at least from this corner) that was the surprise he had in mind. Carroll has already informed the Nationals’ brass that he can play eight positions on the diamond (he probably wouldn’t climb the mound) and Johnson had just spent a good portion of his media session discussing playing Steve Lombardozzi in left field and maximizing players versatility.

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But the “option,” as it turns out, is one no one saw coming.

Xavier Nady, the versatile veteran the Nationals signed to a minor league deal on March 18, is in the Nationals’ lineup today, hitting seventh and playing first base.

“They told me he came into camp in good shape,” Johnson said. “He plays outfield/first base. Last I checked I had some guys injured there, so why not look at him?” 

Johnson’s reasoning is sound and Nady, who is a career .275/.328/.438 hitter, gives the Nationals an additional outfield and infield option for their bench. But this represents a departure from the Nationals plans.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the day the team signed Nady that he would not be in major league camp and he had no problem going to Triple-A. Last Friday, he reiterated those thoughts, saying in no uncertain terms that the team had no plans for Nady to play in a major league game before the spring was over. 

If he’s healthy and productive, Nady would provide the Nationals with a proven, veteran option both in the corner outfield spots (where left fielder Michael Morse’s injury has left them a little short) and at first base (where Johnson plans to go easy on first baseman Adam LaRoche). Mark DeRosa can fill that role, too, but if Johnson is trying to fill both corner spots at the same time, DeRosa can only help so much. 

DeRosa was originally scheduled to be in the Nationals’ lineup for Wednesday’s game but had some calf cramping Tuesday and Johnson gave him the day off instead.

“This is the time you look at every conceivable option, whether it’s an immediate solution or down the road solution,” Johnson said. “That’s my job.”

It’s not clear if the Nationals see Nady as another option for the bench immediately out of camp. While that appeared not to be the case when they first signed him, Johnson left the door open on that decision a bit when speaking Wednesday. It’s too soon, of course, to make a decision on how ready Nady is anyway. Johnson tried to get a look at Nady in a minor league game a few days ago but it didn’t exactly go as he planned.

“I got to see him make a catch in left field up against the wall,” Johnson said. “Took a good route on that. I got to see him go up to home plate against (Nationals left-handed prospect Danny Rosenbaum). I got to see his stance. And then Rosenbaum hit him in the (butt). So I got a real good scouting report there.”

More to come after the game from Nady, but first, here’s the rest of the Nationals’ lineup:

Ian Desmond SS
Danny Espinosa 2B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Jayson Werth RF
Wilson Ramos C
Jason Michaels LF
Xavier Nady 1B
Brett Carroll CF
Jordan Zimmermann P