The most intriguing development in the Nationals’ 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Friday may have been the strong performance of infielder Steve Lombardozzi, who is trying to make the team as a reserve. Put into a difficult spot — batting second against Yankees ace CC Sabathia and playing a relatively unfamiliar position (third base) — Lombardozzi starred on both ends.
In the third inning, he yanked an 0-2 fastball from Sabathia over the wall in left for a solo homer, his second hit of the game off the big lefty. Meantime, on defense, he made one excellent diving stop on a smash by Francisco Cervelli, and nearly made a Zimmermanesque charging play on a dribbler down the line, but Curtis Granderson beat Lombardozzi’s on-target throw by a step.
At one point on the Nationals bench, Manager Davey Johnson leaned over to Lombardozzi and said, “What, are you trying to make the team?”
Lombardozzi replied in the affirmative.
“It’s pretty neat,” he said later. “I’m trying to fight for a spot here. So it was a good day.”
Still, the question with Lombardozzi, 23, remains the same as it was a month ago: Can the Nationals give him enough at-bats as a reserve infielder in the big leagues to justify halting his minor league development? The ability he showed Friday to play third base only helps his case.
“I haven’t had much experience [at third base], but it’s fun,” Lombardozzi said. “I’m learning. I’m trying to pick guys’ brains about playing over there. The biggest thing is just to be aggressive and react.”
A few more notes from Tampa:
*Back in Viera, injured starter Chien-Ming Wang spoke to a reporter from the team’s Web site, saying he felt no worse this morning than he did immediately after the injury occurred. “So, I feel it’s okay,” he said.
“We are going to treat it as much as we can,” Wang said, “and then we’ll let the team doctor evaluate a couple of days later.”
Johnson has already said he expects Wang to be out a minimum of two weeks.
*Bryce Harper went 1 for 4 with a hard-hit single off the first baseman’s glove, but he struck out in both of his at-bats against lefties — Sabathia and minor leaguer Cesar Cabral. Though it is an extremely small sample, Harper is just 1 for 6 with three strikeouts and no walks this spring against lefties (versus 5 for 14 with two walks and four strikeouts against right-handers).
*The Nationals announced extensions to their contracts with four minor-league affiliates — Syracuse (Class AAA), Harrisburg (Class AA), Potomac (high Class A) and Auburn, N.Y., (short-season Class A) through 2014. Notably absent from the announcement was any word about low Class A Hagerstown, with whom the Nationals’ current agreement expires after the season. The Nationals are exploring a possible move to Winchester, Va., while continuing to negotiate with Hagerstown Suns officials over improvements to the stadium there.