VIERA, Fla. - More and more position players are trickling into camp - including the Nats’ first-round picks in the last two drafts, outfielder Bryce Harper and infielder Anthony Rendon - and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo held an extended session with reporters this morning and talked about a variety of subjects.
* Rizzo said outfielder Mike Cameron, whose retirement was announced yesterday, called the Nationals “out of the blue” Wednesday to tell them he wasn’t going to report. “He just didn’t feel good about preparing for a rigorous seven-month season. ... He wasn’t physically or mentally motivated to get prepared for the season,” Rizzo said.The GM told Cameron to take a few days to rethink his decision, in hopes that he would change his mind. “He just didn’t want to come in here, not give it 100, 110 percent and embarrass himself and embarrass the team,” Rizzo said.
* With Cameron out of the picture as part of an expected center field platoon with Rick Ankiel, Rizzo doesn’t feel he needs to make a move to replace him. “I think the move will come from in this room,” Rizzo said. “I think we’ve allowed ourselves enough depth when we signed enough guys for depth at that position, right-handed and left-handed, to give Davey (Johnson) the flexibility to do what he has to do,” Rizzo said. Non-roster invitees Jason Michaels and Brett Carroll will get a crack at the spot, or Johnson could move Jayson Werth from right field to center and stick veteran utility man Mark DeRosa in right. Non-roster invite Andres Blanco can play outfield, but the Nats don’t expect him to play there. Likewise, there are no plans to move infielder Steve Lombardozzi to the outfield, Rizzo said.
* Lombardozzi continues to be someone both Johnson and Rizzo want on the 25-man roster. “It won’t be a true utility role, but a hybrid role where he can get multiple at-bats and we can utilize his skill set to win games up here and still have him develop as a player,” Rizzo said. “We still see him as an everyday major league player. ... I think Davey will utilize him to get those 350 or more at-bats in the major leagues so we don’t regress him.” Lombardozzi is a switch hitter and can play second base, shortstop or third base. Having him spell Ian Desmond at short, Danny Espinosa at second or Ryan Zimmerman at third will bolster Johnson’s bench. “When (Lombardozzi) plays more positions, the person whose job he takes will come off the bench,” Rizzo said.
* How will Johnson find sufficient at-bats for both Lombardozzi and DeRosa? “I think it will be a challenge for Davey,” Rizzo said. “He’s got it planned out and mapped out. I think what Davey does best is he gets guys to buy into roles and opportunities and I think he’s going to do that in this situation, too.”
* For the first time in recent history, the Nationals don’t expect any players to report late to camp because of visa issues, Rizzo said.
* As if Stephen Strasburg’s proclamation Sunday that he’d pitch until the ball was taken from him wasn’t enough, Rizzo again spoke about the innings limit the right-hander is expected to be given in his first full season following Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery. The Nationals won’t do anything special to ensure that Strasburg pitches deeper into the season. “We’re going to run him out there until his innings are done and then stop him from pitching,” Rizzo said. “He’s a young pitcher that’s still learning how to pitch in the big leagues and I think it’s unfair for him get him ramped up in spring training, start the season on a regular rotation, then shut him down or skip him. ... We’re going to make him comfortable.” The Nationals won’t use a six-man rotation or delay his first starting assignment to protect Strasburg, either, Rizzo added.
* Despite significant starting pitching depth and a catcher in Jesus Flores that has drawn some interest from other clubs, Rizzo said he’s not seen an uptick in any interest. “I don’t think it’s peaked or changed yet,” Rizzo said. “I think all teams are ... getting settled in, see what we have.”