The Washington Post

Nationals bench rotation remains in flux

In addition to the outstanding pitching and defense that has sparked the Washington Nationals to a 10-3 start, tied for the best record in the National League, Manager Davey Johnson repeatedly has praised the contributions from his reserves, several of whom he said could be everyday players.

Steve Lombardozzi is one of many who have contributed off the bench. (Greg Fiume/GETTY IMAGES)

“Call it a mental break,” Johnson said.

Roger Bernadina, who had a game-tying RBI in last night’s 3-2 win against Houston, also was “probably more than the fourth outfielder” last season, according to Johnson.

This year Bernadina is among a handful of players sharing time in left field. Mark DeRosa, Xavier Nady, who’s contributed a pinch-hit homer this season, and Lombardozzi, all have played there as well.

So during the early portion of the season, Johnson is making it among his highest priorities to sort out the bench rotation before Michael Morse, who has played right and left field and first base since coming to the Nationals in 2009, comes off the disabled list.

“I’ve been doing some musical chairs a little bit with some other guys, which I’m not real comfortable with either,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take a little while until everything kind of settles down and everybody knows exactly what to expect out of me.”

Finding playing time for Chad Tracy has been on Johnson’s to-do list, too. In his first game with the Nationals, Tracy belted a two-out double, and Desmond followed with a run-scoring single in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on April 5.

Two days later, Tracy had another critical hit to help the Nationals beat the Cubs, 7-4.

With Morse and center fielder Rick Ankiel having begun the season on the DL, there were more opportunities for bench players. But since Ankiel has come back into the lineup, it’s become awful crowded in the outfield, so much so that Johnson indicated Lombardozzi is out of the equation so he can simplify matters.

“If you’re going to win, 25 guys have got to do their thing,” Johnson said. “My job is to basically make sure they’re in position to do their thing.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.


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