Pregame notes on Lombardozzi, Morse, LaRoche

JUPITER, Fla. - If you’re around a TV tonight at 10 p.m., you might want to flip on MLB Network, as they’ll be featuring the Nationals as part of their 30 clubs/30 days series.

Mitch Williams and the MLB Network crew were in Viera the last two days filming interviews with manager Davey Johnson and a number of key players, and if my blog just hasn’t done enough to help you get your Nats fix lately, tonight’s show might help.

While Steve Lombardozzi is getting playing time in left field again today, it doesn’t appear Johnson is considering him as a legitimate candidate to work in as part of a rotation in left should Michael Morse (strained lat) need to start the season on the DL.

Johnson wants to get Lombardozzi some playing time at a number of positions - he said today he’s entertained the possibility of getting Lombardozzi a first baseman’s mitt - but will use the 23-year-old predominantly at the middle-infield spots and at third base when Ryan Zimmerman gets a rare day off.

“It’s no secret, I like watching him play,” Johnson said. “I’ve been giving him experience in different spots for a need that might come up on the team. I didn’t want it to be in a major league game and (he had) never even been in the outfield, didn’t have a glove, didn’t know where to go.”

Johnson said again that he views Lombardozzi as an everyday player, but with the Nats comfortable with Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa as their middle infielders, Lombardozzi is left in a utility role. Johnson still has yet to declare Lombardozzi as a lock to make the opening day roster, but with Andres Blanco - the only other candidate for the utility infield job - hitting .067 (2-for-30) this spring, it’s probably safe to write Lombardozzi’s name into one of the Nationals’ 25 spots for April 5.

First baseman Adam LaRoche will play in a minor league game and will be allowed to make turns on the bases today, and the Nationals appear increasingly confident that he’ll be ready for opening day. LaRoche has not played in a major league spring game since March 15 because of a bone bruise on his left foot.

“I think he’s fairly close from taking the wraps off,” Johnson said.

If all goes well today, LaRoche could return to Grapefruit League games on Thursday, Johnson said.

As for Morse, Johnson said he saw the left fielder this morning before the team bus left for Jupiter, and Morse had a big smile on his face and was carrying a couple pieces of lumber.

“He had two bats in his hand, he said, ‘Don’t tell ‘em, but I’m feeling pretty good,’ ” Johnson said. “I said, ‘Don’t tell me.’ I thought tomorrow was the throwing day and here he comes walking in from the parking lot with bats in his hand. And I know he stopped in the cages. I had no part to do with it, in case the doctors ask you.”

Morse is still scheduled to resume throwing tomorrow.

Also, expect the Nats to make their next round of cuts either tomorrow or Thursday.

They currently have 37 on the roster, including reliever Cole Kimball and first baseman Chris Marrero, who will begin the season on the 60-day DL, and will need to get down to 25 by the end of camp.

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