Now that the Nationals lineup is complete, at least for the season, Jayson Werth is expected to be the team’s leadoff hitter for now. Werth, who has primarily hit fifth in his career, has some experience as a leadoff hitter. He has leadoff 35 games in his career and his ability to draw walks is a trait that Manager Davey Johnson likes. Werth, who has hit well since his return from the disabled list, has already led off once this season, but his role there starts in earnest Friday.
Of course, with Ian Desmond’s return from injury, the team’s recent leadoff hitter Steve Lombardozzi will be pushed onto the bench. It comes at a tough time for him, as he was in the midst of a hot-hitting streak. Johnson said he will still try to work in some at-bats for Lombardozzi as a leadoff hitter, possibly against right-handed pitchers.
Over the past 14 games, Lombardozzi is hitting .356 (21 for 59) with two triples and five walks. The streak came, he said, with getting a more consistent dose of playing time and at-bats. Now, however, Lombardozzi’s playing time will be far more irregular.
“Lombo’s been a regular his whole life and he’s basically been a regular here, first as a left fielder then as a second baseman, his normal position,” Johnson said. “… But he’s on a team that has some very talented players up the middle.”
Johnson seemed to suggest that the Nationals have leadoff options for the future. The Nationals have long targeted leadoff hitters as a need to be filled potentially in free agency. They were often linked, for example, to free agent-to-be Michael Bourn, the Atlanta Braves’ center fielder.
“I have variable options,” he said. “I could do a lot of things. And we’re dealing from a history of success.”