The Washington Times - May 31, 2013, 06:58PM

ATLANTA — There’s been a lot of talk about the Nationals and what “changes” they could make to an offense that is among the worst in the major leagues by the numbers. 

Johnson has danced around the question on a handful of occasions, but on Friday, he expanded on the way he views the team right now — and why it doesn’t seem like anything drastic is coming down the pipe.


Here is what he said:

“When guys go out of the lineup, I look at it as an opportunity for some talent to come out there and do some great things,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately this year, we’ve got a bunch of guys that have not been doing those good things. They’ve been struggling — but when I evaluate the talent, I like the talent that I have here.

“I can understand when a guy can go and have a little slump, but it’s kind of unusual to have as many guys, I think four or five guys are not doing the things they’re capable of doing, and that makes it tough. We called up Eury Perez and I didn’t play him that much, because I believe that the guys here have done it in the past, and I want to give them the opportunity. Same way with (Jeff) Kobernus. He was playing very good down there, but I have guys at this level who play very good at this level and haven’t been in a full-time role. I’ve been trying to get them enough playing time to where their water would seek its level. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Right now, we’re in a little funk. We need to come out of it.”

Johnson was then asked specifically about Steve Lombardozzi.

“Lombo’s been playing pretty good,” he said. “He’s been playing better lately. He was in a similar role last year, playing different positions. I’ve tried to keep him mostly in the infield this year. It’s possible there will be some more changes, but I’ve got pretty much what I consider my best defense out there (Friday night) and guys that have had a lot of success in the past that should be able to perform.

“I put the guys out there that I think have the best chance to do well. I call it giving opportunities. We’ve got a couple of our guys that were part-time players last year that are pretty much playing regular right now. Last year, when guys were down they did very well. This year, it’s been slow for them to hit their stride. But am I giving up on them? No, I’m not giving up on them. I know the talent is there and the capability is there. It’s not an experiment for me.”

With Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper both dealing with injuries in the last week or so, the Nationals have been playing down a man or two for several games now. Johnson admitted that while he doesn’t like to do that, he would still play the same guys he’s playing now, even if they had an extra body or two on the bench.

“It’s the fit,” Johnson said. “If (Harper) goes on the DL, obviously we’re going to have to make a change. I do not like to have to go short-handed. When I look at the talent here, there’s not a lot of guys that I have to pinch-hit for. I have confidence that they can do the job. I’m not really platooning anybody. The guys that I would kind of alternate in the past were Tyler Moore and (Roger) Bernadina. And they both are in the lineup on a daily basis. The options are kind of limited. But I still like my options.”

The Nationals’ pitching staff has held them in games while their offense has gone through significant peaks and valleys. Getting that solved and his hitters performing consistently, Johnson said, is his chief concern right now.

“The main thing I’m concerned about is the offense,” Johnson said. “We’re scoring a run a game behind Atlanta, and last year we were a .260-hitting club. We’re 30 points below that with basically the same talent. Injuries come into it, but we still have the guys in here that held us in there last year.

“I know we struggled at this point in the year last year offensively before we started hitting. But it’s a little tougher, with the year we had last year, to be struggling this year.”