An extra man you may have missed

One free agent signing by the Nationals that you may have overlooked occurred right after the Winter Meetings in December when Washington signed veteran infielder Andres Blanco to a minor league contract. Blanco, an Anderson Hernandez/Alberto Gonzalez type, has played 235 big league games over six seasons with the Royals, Cubs and Rangers, with a lifetime batting average of .255. He’s a switch-batter and has no real power to speak of. A middle infielder, Blanco is considered above-average in the field.

I’m guessing many fans feel that Blanco is just minor league depth, but some sources in baseball believe he’ll be on the big league club. If so, that would likely indicate that Steve Lombardozzi would be the everyday second baseman at Syracuse, barring a trade.

Davey Johnson believes he can get Lombardozzi 350-plus plate appearances in 2012. That’s a stretch from my perspective, since many of those would have to come from Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond, and barring an injury, it’s hard to imagine that Johnson would sit either one of those guys very often.

Blanco hasn’t been an everyday player since 2003 when he was 19 and playing for the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the Single-A Carolina League. (By the way, if you’re driving up Interstate 95 North into Delaware, you pass right by their nice little ballpark on the right.) At 27 (28 by opening day), he understands his role in this game and has no complaints.

Trying to handicap the extra men on the 2012 roster this early is probably an exercise in futility, but assuming that Jesus Flores is the backup catcher and Mark DeRosa has a big league contract, the other three spots would seem to be between Roger Bernadina, Steve Lombardozzi, and non-roster invitees Blanco, Mike Cameron, Rick Ankiel and Mark Teahen. Cameron and Ankiel may end up platooning in center, leaving just one spot available. A versatile switch-hitting veteran accustomed to coming off the bench is likely a shade more attractive than a high-ceiling youngster with only 31 big league at-bats.

It’s why they have spring training.