The Washington Times - May 25, 2012, 07:15PM

ATLANTA — It wasn’t until the last few weeks of spring training that the Nationals, convinced by then that they’d like to have Steve Lombardozzi on their major league team, decided they’d have him learn left field. It would provide another option, they felt, for manager Davey Johnson to get Lombardozzi’s bat in the lineup.

That has become paramount early this season as Lombardozzi (hitting .317 with a .385 on-base percentage) has been one of the Nationals’ most consistent hitters, despite his limited playing time. Lombardozzi only really played with regularity when Ryan Zimmerman was on the disabled list at the end of April and in early May, but he’s made almost all of his at-bats and chances count.

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He also profiles as more of a leadoff hitter than anyone else on the roster and it makes the lineup fit together much more smoothly when he’s in it. It allows Ian Desmond to hit fifth, a spot he’s had great success out of in a small sample, and Bryce Harper to hit second where his energy and speed can be utilized well in front of Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. 

So even with the Nationals carrying outfielders Roger Bernadina and Xavier Nady, as well as, to some extent, Tyler Moore, Lombardozzi looks to get more of the playing time for now.

“Right now, I’ve got a guy that’s playing very well,” Johnson said of the switch-hitting rookie. “His natural position is second base. We have a guy there we need to get right – and he’s starting to get right – in (Danny) Espinosa. Lombo’s on-base percentage is real good, so he’s an ideal leadoff hitter to set the table for the middle of my lineup.”

That leaves Bernadina, in particular, again without much of a role on the team. With fellow left-hander Rick Ankiel the team’s everyday center fielder and Lombardozzi a switch hitter, there appears minimal opportunity for Bernadina. When Jayson Werth went down with a broken wrist on May 6, it appeared to be yet another window of opportunity for Bernadina to prove to the Nationals that he could be an everyday player. 

But despite stretches where that appears the case — Bernadina was 8-for-24 in his first seven games after Werth broke his wrist — it’s been difficult for him to maintain consistency. Since those first seven games, Bernadina is 2-for-16 and has only started four games.

“Bernadina has been hot and cold,” Johnson said. “(Lombardozzi in left field) is our best foot forward for us to win ballgames.”

Asked then what kind of a role that leaves for Bernadina, who hasn’t started since Saturday, Johnson paused for a moment.

“I still think he’s got a lot of talent,” Johnson said. “I still think when things get a little more settled here and Michael Morse comes back, I’d still like to stick him in the lineup because he can make things happen, too. I expect all these guys to stay ready to help us win ballgames. Like I say, 25 guys are important.”