Nats' bench battle should go down to the wire

VIERA, Fla. - While the bulk of the spots on manager Davey Johnson's bench are accounted for at this point, the battle for the last slot might get fierce.

Johnson said today that the competition for the final bench job "probably won't be settled until the last day" of spring, allowing outfielders Brett Carroll and Jason Michaels and infielders Chad Tracy, Mark Teahen and Andres Blanco plenty of time to sort out who will crack the 25-man roster.

First baseman Tyler Moore, who has hit 31 home runs each of the last two seasons but hasn't played above Double-A, is not in the mix, however. Johnson said that the Nationals want to continue to give Moore consistent at-bats in the minors before working him in at the major league level.

Carroll and Michaels appear to be the favorites at this point, but with Johnson watching every move, there's plenty on the line for all involved.

"That's very important for me - (my) bench," Johnson said. "I will be looking at every aspect of that, for the players' benefit, for the team and how it fits. Their versatility, offense, defense, you name it. I'll look at it every which way, because I think that's as important as the position players - the guys that fit with your position players."

Two of the spots on the Nationals' bench have already been secured by catcher Jesus Flores and corner infielder Mark DeRosa, and two more guys - middle infielder Steve Lombardozzi and outfielder Roger Bernadina - have the inside track for reserve roles.

But that last spot will be tough to secure.

Johnson has been polling his coaches for their take on how the 25-man roster should shake out, and there's been little consensus among the guys who have given their opinions.

"Very few agree with anybody else," Johnson said.

That said, Johnson doesn't think the final decision will shock those who have watched the action this spring.

"(The players will) have told us who the best ones are," Johnson said. "I think about it and ponder it, but I don't worry about me making the decision because I know they will. They'll know they made the club probably before they make the club."

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