Stuck in a losing streak with a lineup gone especially cold over the last four games, Nationals manager Davey Johnson made changes for the second consecutive day in attempt to resuscitate his stagnant offense. In goes Steve Lombardozzi at third base and batting second, with Jayson Werth moving back into the cleanup spot and Adam LaRoche at fifth.
Johnson said Lombardozzi had essentially played his way into the mix after batting .345 through his first 14 games. That, and Werth only has four hits in his last 26 ABs and is more useful later in the order with Ryan Zimmerman still on the disabled list.
“With Zimm out it kind of changes our dynamics,” Johnson said. “I like the lefty/righty thing and [Werth] was looking for a change. I was going to move him out of the two-hole and probably the next best on-base guy I got is Lombo who did a lot of hitting one or two last year. I wanted to get him in a game.”
Johnson could have gone in another direction and given Danny Espinosa a rest. The second baseman is batting a paltry .155/.197/.293, but Thursday was a special day for him. It was his birthday and no one wants to be demoted on their birthday.
“I still need to get Espinosa going and it’s his birthday today, you have to know all these things,” Johnson said.
“My main concern is getting guys going, getting something going for one or two guys and getting something going overall.”
Johnson said the new-look lineup is likely just for Thursday’s game.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said.
The Nationals have been shut out in two of their four consecutive losses and have just four runs during that stretch. With nearly the whole lineup searching, Johnson said nine of his players were out hours before Thursday’s game taking extra batting practice.
Johnson walked out to watch them and was paying particularly close attention to Adam LaRoche. LaRoche is batting .169 and has two hits and 12 strikeouts in his last 18 at-bats.
Johnson said he isn’t losing sleep over the team’s sub-.500 record and mounting losses. He is trying to stay patient and let the talent of his ballclub prevail.
“It’s baseball season, I’m always up all night thinking trying to dream up something,” he said. “We just need something. A little bloop here and there, a walk, to get us going.”
Hoping these minor changes work out is Davey’s plan for now, he doesn’t want to show any signs of panic yet, just 21 games into the season.
“It’s the old adage: if you’re gonna get beat, get beat making a change. So I’m making a change.”
Ramos, Zimmerman updates
Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman are continuing their recoveries from hamstring injuries, with Ramos a few days ahead of Zimmerman in the process. Davey Johnson said Ramos took extra batting practice on Thursday and also ran the bases. He is expected to do the same on Friday before heading to Bowie to join the Double-A Harrisburg Senators on rehab assignment. The Senators will be in town to play the Baysox.
General manager Mike Rizzo said Ramos will catch three innings on Friday with Harrisburg and also play on Saturday. If all goes well, Ramos will join the Nationals on their roadtrip next week and likely be activated for Monday’s game at the Atlanta Braves. Zimmerman has started running and is expected to start taking batting practice in a few days, perhaps on Sunday or Monday. Zimmerman is eligible to be activated off the disabled list on May 3.