Johnson talks Desmond’s day off, Lombardozzi’s role, outfield rotation

In his pregame session with reporters, Davey Johnson was asked what he thinks of Steve Lombardozzi’s defensive play at shortstop.

“He’s adequate. I’ve had a lot worse out there,” Johnson said.

Quite a ringing endorsement for the guy who will be Johnson’s starting shortstop tonight.

Ian Desmond gets a breather tonight, as Lombardozzi will hit leadoff and play short. The last time Lombardozzi started a game, he went 4-for-5 with two RBIs in Monday’s win over the Astros.

While Desmond would prefer to be in the lineup playing, he said he actually appreciates getting a day to rest up a little, and trusts Lombardozzi will hold down the fort.

“It’s nice, actually, to kind of catch my breath a little bit, because I played the final stretch of spring training, every day, nine innings, a couple long bus trips in there, and some taxing games lately,” Desmond said. “It’ll be nice to kind of rejuvenate and kind of get going ready for tomorrow. It’s just kind of nice to be able to take this time and clear my mind and rest my body a little bit.”

Johnson has now given “mental break” days off to both Desmond and second baseman Danny Espinosa this week. He also hopes to get corner infielder Chad Tracy a start sometime soon, allowing the veteran left-handed hitter to replace either Adam LaRoche or Ryan Zimmerman.

“You do that when you’ve got a good bunch, to keep them sharp,” Johnson said. “I do like to maintain them and keep them involved, not just pinch hitting or double switching. ... If you’re going to win, 25 guys have to do their thing. So my job is to basically make sure they’re in position to do their thing.”

In addition to seeing time at second, short and third base in spring training, Lombardozzi also found himself getting an opportunity in left field for the first time in his professional career. But while Johnson could slide Lombardozzi to left in a pinch if need-be, but he said he doesn’t view the 23-year-old as a true part of his outfield rotation.

“I’ve got enough people in that equation right now, and I’m trying to simplify it,” Johnson said. “You cover all options in the spring, and every little thought that might come into your mind about where you might use a guy, in preparation for the season. But in the past, when I was observing the ballclub the last couple springs, I thought our depth in our outfield, not only at the major league level, but the Triple-A level, was down. That’s not the case this year.

“I’ve got five guys up here that I have confidence in that could play out there. Put Lombo in, that’s six. There’s three or four guys down at Triple-A that could come in here and help us out. We have the depth there now. We have championship-caliber depth there in the outfield.”

Johnson said he plans to continue sitting center fielder Rick Ankiel against left-handed pitching and moving right fielder Jayson Werth to center. He then can go to either Mark DeRosa or Xavier Nady in right, giving him additional right-handed bats in the lineup.

Against righties, though, Johnson is still trying to decide how to rotate his outfielders, with DeRosa, Nady and Roger Bernadina all in the mix for playing time in left field.

“Do I have a platoon there?” Johnson said. “Do I have one of my right-handed bats that’s been a regular there? That’s an unsettled situation right now, which I’m sure it will settle itself out shortly.”

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