Bo Porter has experience with players like Steve Lombardozzi, an infielder trying to learn outfield on short notice. With the Florida Marlins, Porter converted Josh Willingham in three days. In 2009, Chris Coghlan came to Porter in April with precisely one game of outfield experience. The Marlins sent him to left field the next day. That season, Coghlan won Rookie of the Year.
Lombardozzi got Porter’s crash course on Wednesday, an attempt by the Nationals to increase Lombardozzi’s versatility and give them another option as they sweat the health of Michael Morse. They put him into the game later that day, and he handled his few chances without issue.
“Lombo actually looked more comfortable than both of those guys on the first day,” Porter said.
The Nationals want to find ways to get Lombardozzi at-bats, which playing the outfield will do. Manager Davey Johnson also admitted Lombardozzi could be part of a contingency plan should Morse not return from his lingering strained lat by opening day. Lombardozzi had last played outfield as a kid. He was surprised but not upset by, the assignment.
“I’m here to help the team win whatever way that is,” Lombardozzi said.
The Nationals are throwing a lot at Lombardozzi, a 23-year-old with 13 big league games under his belt, but only because they believe he can handle it. Lombardozzi had played third base only once in the minors, but shortly after his call-up last September, they used him there when Ryan Zimmerman took a day off.
“I’m comfortable with him now,” Porter said. “If we had to do it, I’m comfortable with him, just because I know that he’s going to work at it. He’s going to do everything he can to get better at the things he’s probably not doing well at the beginning. He’s a baseball player that’s going to adapt to situations and know exactly what he’s going to do.”
An attentive player, the son of a big leaguer, Lombardozzi should be able to adapt. Having played around the infield, Porter said, gives him the knowledge of where he should throw the ball to find the cutoff man. Lombardozzi, in the short time he’s played, has taken to the role.
“I think it’s fun,” Lombardozzi said. “There’s not a lot of thinking involved. You just see it and run it down. There’s definitely a lot to learn out there, but it’s also instincts, getting good jumps off the bat. Those first couple steps are huge.”