Nats comfortable with current bench construction

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - During his group sitdown with reporters yesterday afternoon, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was asked if he feels there will be a lot of competition for spots on his bench in 2013, with guys like Corey Brown and Eury Perez now having some major league games under their belts.

"Well, I'm going to act like there is," Johnson said, cracking a smile.

Johnson didn't mean that as a shot at Brown, Perez or others within the organization who have worked their way up through the minor league ranks. He even said he sees Brown, the Nats' 27-year-old outfielder, as a major leaguer at this point. Johnson just realizes that it would take a lot for someone who wasn't on the Nationals' roster for much of last season to end up cracking his bench in 2013.

Unlike in previous years, the Nationals don't have go around searching for bench help at this year's Winter Meetings.

No need to bring in tons of guys on minor league contracts with invitations to major league spring training. Meetings don't need to be scheduled with other teams to discuss fringe position players. The major league portion of tomorrow's Rule 5 draft can likely be avoided.

The Nationals' bench is pretty much set for next season, assuming Tyler Moore doesn't end up as the starting first baseman.

As one team exec told me, "We're pretty good there."

Moore, Steve Lombardozzi and Chad Tracy are set to return as the infielders, Roger Bernadina can back up in the outfield (as can Moore and Lombardozzi, if needed), and either Wilson Ramos or Kurt Suzuki, whichever catcher isn't starting on any given day, will round out the bench.

"Holy moly," Johnson said. "I've got a lot of good players."

There's also a good lefty-righty balance with that group of five; Moore and Ramos/Suzuki are right-handed, Tracy and Bernadina are left-handed and Lombardozzi is a switch-hitter.

Johnson said he would be interested in having Mark DeRosa come back and compete for a spot, but barring injury or a trade, there really doesn't seem to be room for him at this point.

"We have a pretty good bench as is," general manager Mike Rizzo said.

Very little is set in stone during the major league offsesason, and as Rizzo is fond of saying, the Nats will always keep an ear out for ways to upgrade their ballclub.

But while in the past the Nationals were actively on the lookout for ways to add to their bench options, that's not something which Rizzo really needs to concern himself with over the next 24 hours or so here in Nashville.

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