Johnson sticking with regulars early in season

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals played their 11th game on Saturday afternoon against the Braves, and Tyler Moore had yet to make his first start of the season. He is not alone.

Entering play Saturday, manager Davey Johnson had used his bench sparingly, with the exception of alternating between catchers Wilson Ramos and Kurt Suzuki. The only other reserve to get a start is Chad Tracy, who played first base twice when Adam LaRoche was out with a minor back injury. Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina have yet to appear in the team's starting lineup.

"This year, earlier on, [Johnson's] been running out mostly the regular starters, so me and the bench guys, it's kind of tough for us to get a good little feel for stuff, but we just stay ready," said Moore, a 26-year-old first baseman and corner outfielder.

Moore has less experience in a bench role than some of the others. He played regularly throughout the Minor Leagues, hitting 31 home runs in both 2010 and '11. As a rookie last year, he started 35 of his 75 games, slugging .513 and smacking 10 homers, two as a pinch-hitter.

But in 2013, Moore is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and has played a total of four innings in the field.

"It makes you appreciate being a starter a lot more, but at the same time, it's increased my knowledge for the game, too," Moore said. "I know what the manager's thinking a lot of times, and if I didn't have this opportunity, I probably wouldn't know that. So it's just another way to look at it, and I just try to stay positive and go out there and perform."

Moore leans on the veteran Tracy for advice, and also talks to Johnson about pinch-hitting and coming off the bench. He has learned to pay careful attention to pitch counts and who is warming up in the opposing bullpen, in an effort to gauge when he should be ready to grab a bat. He stays loose in the batting cage but tries not to wear himself out.

Eventually, an opportunity to start will come, but it wasn't Saturday, when Johnson went with his regular lineup following Washington's series-opening loss on Friday night.

"I have a lot of very young, strong-minded, strong-bodied players," Johnson said. "If a guy had a not really good day, I'm more apt to keep playing him rather than use a fresher guy off the bench. I don't want to send the wrong signal. Maybe if a guy had a really good game last night, I'd be more inclined to rest him. But right now, some guys, maybe I'm trying to get them going. I want them to have more reps than [have it be] spotty."

Andrew Simon is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.