Good morning from Nationals Park, where they're getting the field ready in hopes of playing a doubleheader today. It's (still) dreary and rainy in the District, and we might have another delay today, but the Nationals will try to get two in this afternoon.
A few pregame notes:
* Stephen Lombardozzi starts at second base in the first game, getting his first significant major league action while Danny Espinosa gets a break. Manager Davey Johnson said Espinosa, who has struck out in seven of his last eight at-bats, probably needs a mental break. "I thought he was getting a little defensive (with his swing), especially from the left side," Johnson said. "He was letting the ball get too deep. He was trying to wait too long and attack the ball almost even with him. I didn't like that, when you're almost protecting against striking out and just taking pitches."
The addition of Lombardozzi - who's one of the Nationals' better middle infield prospects - gives the Nationals a bit of a logjam in the middle infield, but Johnson said both Ian Desmond and Espinosa know their standing with the team. Lombardozzi will get some action this month as the Nationals try to determine where he fits long-term. "Anytime you had the year he had at Double-A and Triple-A, to me, he still projects as a starter," Johnson said. "But a lot of guys come to the big leagues in different roles." Johnson said he sees some comparison between Lombardozzi and Rays infielder Ben Zobrist, who has carved out a regular role for himself by producing at the plate. "(Zobrist) is not a big-league shortstop, per se - he's a touch behind with his arm - but this guy's been playing in the big leagues, and he's probably one of the best players on the Rays' team." And the fact that Lombardozzi is the son of former Twins middle infielder Steve Lombardozzi should help him adjust, too. "It's called pedigree, and he's got a good pedigree," Johnson said. "His dad was a smart player, a good player. He's not the same kind of player, but he's an awful good player. He's always going to be in the game, he's always thinking what needs to be done, and he's always going to try and do it."
* Ivan Rodriguez is ready to catch, but that doesn't mean he will - Johnson still wants to see more of Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores behind the plate. It's a similar situation to what the Nationals are doing with Livan Hernandez, shutting him down so they can get a look at their young pitchers. If Rodriguez sees much more action this year, it will likely be as a pinch hitter.
* It appears Bryce Harper won't be playing with Double-A Harrisburg in the Eastern League playoffs after all. Harper tweeted this morning that he wouldn't be joining the Senators for the playoffs. "It's been real Harrisburg!" he tweeted. "Had a blast! My teammates and fans have been the best! Get that ring boys! Wish I was playing with you!"
* Ryan Mattheus will throw bullpen sessions on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, and will likely pitch a simulated game next Saturday. If all that goes well, the reliever could return from shoulder soreness and return by Sept. 20. "The question would be, would he rest easier if he had a good inning?" Johnson said. "Would he feel better? Would Mike Rizzo feel better? Would I feel better? That determination will probably be made (in a simulated game) on the 17th."
That's all the news that's fit to blog from before the game. I'll be co-hosting Nats Xtra before the first game, between games and after the second game today, so check that out on MASN HD. Byron Kerr will be co-hosting the postgame show after the second game, so we'll have an all-MASNSports.com production. And of course, we'll have news throughout the day on the games and the weather.