Lombardozzi gets first big league start

Lombardozzi gets first big league start

WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided to start Steve Lombardozzi at second base in Game 1 of Thursday's traditional doubleheader against the Dodgers.

Johnson said for several weeks that Lombardozzi would see action at second or short. The rookie comes with a reputation as being a patient hitter. In 134 games for Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg, he hit .309 with eight home runs, 52 RBIs and a .360 on-base percentage.

"I was really impressed with the kind of year that he had," Johnson said. "His reputation is that he is a baseball player."

Johnson planned to give Lombardozzi two days to observe the action before putting him into a game, but the Nationals' skipper had Lombardozzi pinch-hit in the eighth inning Tuesday, an at-bat that resulted in a walk.

"He was able to get into a game a couple of days ago and had a quality at-bat. He got on base," Johnson said. "I talked to him even before the game the other day and told him that I was going to use him primarily at second and short. I would like to put him anywhere and let him play."

Lombardozzi getting the nod in the first game meant that Danny Espinosa was relegated to the bench. Entering Thursday's action, Espinosa was hitting .229 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs. In his last two games against the Dodgers, Espinosa struck out a combined seven times.

Asked if Espinosa was tired, Johnson said, "I think he is kind of mentally tired, not physically tired. He tries so hard and he works so hard. Sometimes that can work against you.

"Ideally, I wouldn't have played him as much as I have, but I really enjoy watching him play and experience is invaluable to him. He is a heck of a player. He can only get better."