It came as a surprise to Steve Lombardozzi this afternoon when third base coach Bo Porter approached him and told him he would be starting in left field. He had played outfield once since April 9 and had not start there all season. Manager Davey Johnson had given no indication he would start playing more outfield.
“I didn’t know I was going to be out there,” Lombardozzi said. “But whatever they want me to do.”
Lombardozzi is also hitting leadoff tonight as Johnson tries to find more playing time for the second baseman-turned-utility man. In his part-time role, Lombardozzi has simply played too well not to garner more playing time. Among major leaguers with at least 80 plate appearances, Lombardozzi ranks 14th with a .407 on-base percentage.
“I like finding time for him,” Johnson said. “He’s been playing great. He’s a great second baseman, and he’s been playing everywhere. He’s an outstanding utility guy for us. I like the fact that he’s getting on base better than anybody. It’s more me finding a spot for him.”
Johnson, though, does not want that additional time to come at Danny Espinosa’s expense. After a dreadful start, Espinosa has an .814 OPS and three homers in his last 16 games.
“I still think Espinosa is going to get squared away and playing like everybody knows he’s capable of,” Johnson said. “My job is to get everybody playing like they’re capable of.”
For tonight, that means sending Lombardozzi to left and batting him leadoff. Lombardozzi typically hit either first or second in his minor league career.
“That’s something I like doing,” Lombardozzi said. “I like getting on, getting things going.”
Lombardozzi has focused mostly on his infield, but has still shagged a few balls in the outfield in case. He finds time to stay sharp with constant activity pregame — he is always stirring, walking to the cage or to the field for extra work. He has taken more fielding and batting practice to stay sharp while not playing every day for the first time in his career.
“It’s different,” Lombardozzi said. “At the same time, coming into the season I wanted to be up here with these guys and help this team win whatever way possible. I know Davey is going to use all 25 of us the best way he believes. So whatever they want me to do, I’ll be in there.”