Why Sandy Leon is playing over Jose Lobaton


Jose Lobaton. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

For the fourth time in six games, Sandy Leon and not Jose Lobaton is starting behind the plate, including back-to-back days. When Wilson Ramos was placed on the disabled list with a broken hamate bone, Lobaton was the logical choice to assume the primary catching duties with Leon as his back-up. The Nationals traded away a pitching prospect in February to acquire Lobaton.

But in recent days, Leon has been handling the bulk of the catching. Lobaton is hitting .192 (5 for 26) to start the season and is new to the Nationals pitching staff. Leon has been in the Nationals farm system for years. But Manager Matt Williams said Leon playing on Tuesday was a matter of his good game at the plate — he had two hits, including a two-run home run on Monday — and handled Stephen Strasburg well in his last start last week — the right-hander allowed one run and struck out 12 over 6 2/3 innings.

“We’re in the business of winning baseball games, not that Jose would give us a worse chance to win a game but given the recent history the last couple of days, certainly Stras’s last start and certainly Sandy swinging the bat well, he’s in there again [Tuesday],” Williams said. “How do we handle it? I think it depends on day to day.”

Williams insisted it wouldn’t be a trend either way but a case-by-case basis. Lobaton has caught Gio Gonzalez the most because the two developed a good pitcher-catcher rapport and could continue to. “It varies depending on who wer’re playing and how they’re feeling and how they’re doing,” Williams said.

Williams had said that Lobaton was beaten up by the tough weekend series in Atlanta. Lobaton caught two of the three games, including all 10 innings on Friday. Lobaton said he was hit in the left wrist by a ball in the dirt and in the leg by another ball, but brushed both as minor nicks. He had tape on his left wrist for two days but said he felt fine.

“I feel fine,” Lobaton said. “I’m ready to play every day. The only day you’re going to see me out is if you see me bleeding. That’s the only day. But other than that, I’m ready for the next day and the next day. Like right now, I’m ready.”

Lobaton said he has been happy to see Leon play well and the team win, but is ready to play himself. He said he hasn’t asked about his playing time, nor does he intend to, because he leaves those matters to the coaches and manager.

“I just see the lineup and see my name and if I see my name I’m happy, too,” he said. “Just happy for Leon that he’s playing.”

James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.

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James Wagner · April 15, 2014