LOS ANGELES — Early in spring training, Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson pulled Steve Lombardozzi aside and told the natural second baseman that his days playing the outfield were largely over. Focus on the infield, Johnson told him.
Lombardozzi, who played in 41 games in the outfield in 2012, got his second consecutive start in left field on Monday as the Nationals opened a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“A couple guys are really scuffling,” Johnson explained. “He’s a gamer. Early in the season (in 2012), when we were started without Michael Morse, I had a little platoon with Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore. And that worked out fairly well, so I might go back to that the next few days.”
The Nationals have been playing without Jayson Werth since May 2 and they lost Bryce Harper for two games over the weekend, which opened up an opportunity for bench outfielders Moore and Roger Bernadina to get some more consistent playing time.
But Moore and Bernadina are hitting a combined .133 on the season, and with the Nationals’ offense struggling some, Johnson saw an opportunity to give them a possible boost with Lombardozzi in the No. 2 spot — and the outfield became the vehicle to do it.
“Offensively there’s probably two or three guys who need to get going that I don’t think have expressed their talent yet,” Johnson said. “There’s a couple pitchers who aren’t really where I’d like them to be. But that happens in the course of a season. I need to give them the opportunity to do it.”
Johnson, who previously managed the Dodgers, was asked by a local reporter if he could understand the difficulties of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Angels manager Mike Scioscia as their job security has come into question early this season.
“It’s always been a hot seat,” Johnson said. “My seat’s pretty hot. I’ve got five or six guys who aren’t doing what they’re capable of doing. That’s your concern as a manager. The wins and losses will work out.”