Monday, March 26, 2012

Makeup of bench still up in the air

US Presswire photo
Utilityman Mark DeRosa may wind up starting at first base or in left field.
VIERA, Fla. -- Davey Johnson thought he had his Opening Day bench all figured out. Jesus Flores would serve as No. 2 catcher. Steve Lombardozzi would be the backup middle infielder. Mark DeRosa would fill in at all the corner positions. Roger Bernadina and Brett Carroll would be the reserve outfielders.

But that grand plan works only if every member of the Nationals' starting lineup is healthy and ready to open the season. Which is no certainty at this point.

With 10 days to go, the Nationals still don't know whether left fielder Michael Morse (lat strain) and first baseman Adam LaRoche (bone bruise in foot) will be in uniform in Chicago for Opening Day ... or in uniform in Viera rehabbing from their injuries.

LaRoche, for the moment, appears more likely to be ready than Morse. But either player's status could change in the coming days.

That uncertainty trickles down to the bench, because Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo are going to have to assemble a roster that can cover the loss (if only temporary) of either or both regulars.

As Johnson put it: "The equation has gotten a little more difficult."

The reserve who figures to benefit the most from an injury to either LaRoche or Morse is DeRosa, the 37-year-old utilityman who could wind up as the Nationals' Opening Day first baseman or left fielder. Healthy again after battling a wrist injury for two seasons, the veteran is enjoying a fine spring; he enters play today with a .348 average and .545 on-base percentage thanks to a team-high 10 walks in only 33 plate appearances.

DeRosa would be a capable fill-in should either LaRoche or Morse need to open the season on the DL. But what if both starters are out? That's when it gets more complicated.

Johnson has suggested he will mix and match at both positions under that scenario, using lefty-righty platoons in an attempt to maximize matchups. That could result in a combination of DeRosa and Chad Tracy (trying to make the club as a non-roster invitee) at first base and Roger Bernadina and Jason Michaels (also trying to make the club as a non-roster invitee) in left field.

Of course, there's also Carroll, a strong defensive outfielder who has impressed Johnson this spring with his arm and versatility. The 29-year-old has even volunteered to serve as emergency catcher, an offer that could gives Johnson the freedom to use Flores as a pinch-hitter without fear of running out of backstops.

And then there's Lombardozzi, still viewed by some in the organization as a future everyday second baseman in the majors but apparently destined to be a rookie utilityman this season. Johnson hopes to get the 23-year-old as many as 300 at-bats at as many as four positions: second base, shortstop, third base and left field (where Lombardozzi made his first career start yesterday).

How will this all shake out? The Nationals still don't know.

Suffice it to day, everyone in camp -- from the front office to the coaching staff to those potential bench players trying to squeeze their way onto the roster -- will be monitoring both Morse and LaRoche's progress this week, trying to figure out which 25 players wind up at Wrigley Field come April 5.


Gonat said...

If either Morse or LaRoche start the season on the DL with a retroactive date, I believe the earliest they can come back is April 10th.

Doc said...

So Mark, do you think that JFlo will start over Ramos, at least temporarily?

FS said...

This is sad. Injuries have hampered us for a long time now. Every year we seem to have a couple of guys out. I am not blaming anyone, it just seems we have had some serious bad luck so far. I hope we see both Adam and Mike soon enough in everyday lineups and Davey does not have to do any experimenting.

Wally said...

I do not like Jas, Brett and Rog
I do not like them, Sam I am.

Not in the field! Not at the plate!
Not on the bus! Sam! Let me be!
I would not, could not, in the box.
I could not, would not, wearing high socks.
I will not play them in the sun.
I will not play them down by a run.
I will not play them here or there.
I will not play them anywhere.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Positively Half St. said...

This does seem to delay the loss of Bernadina to a waiver claim. As disturbing as all of this is, do keep in mind cases like Joakim Soria and Ryan Madsen. We still have hope of our guys playing this year, and maybe soon.


Nats1924 said...

I dont know about you all, but im getting kinda sick of Laroche.

We have a club option after the season, right ?

Section 215, Row A said...

Positively 1/2 Street is positively correct.

natsfan1a said...

Speaking of things positive, Bos seems to be flying high again.

NatsBrat said...

Me too, Nats1924!

$16 million doesn't get you much in a baseball player these days.

I'm thinking that LaRoche and Nick Johnson tweet each other on names of medical disorders.

Ray said...

I know that Carroll has a reputation as a good defensive outfielder but I saw little evidence of that watching him play almost everyday for two weeks in ST. He's better than Jason Michael, but that is a very low bar.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Ray.... Michaels bat seems better than Carrols but like you say,,,,that's an exremely low bar. And Michaels is extremely scary with a glove on his right hand.

I'm not a fan of either and actually prefer the left handed bat of Bernadina over either.

sjm308 said...

Very creative Wally, just another reason to come to this site.

FS - check the transaction list each day and you will see that injury is a huge part of this and I am guessing every pro sport. You can't name me one team that has kept their starting group healthy through spring training. Just quickly in our division Utley out of opening day and Howard might not even play. Chipper just had his knee operated on. Stanton is hurt for the Marlins, and I am not sure David Wright has played for the mets in a game yet. Not a day goes by that someone else is hurt, and this will happen all through the season (see Posey/Brian Roberts etc.).

Just have to hope that JayB has not nailed it on the lack of depth on our club. I am not sure a GM can prepare for this. Most bench players honestly want a chance at starting and if all our guys were healthy, they would not sign here as subs. I am kind of stunned that J. Damon is still out there. He has no arm but he can hit and I have to think he would be a better option than Michaels. I am also certain he will want starters money and maybe a two year deal and that is probably not wise. Just so no one jumps on me, I have no facts about what Damon wants, I just feel that must be why he has not been signed.

Go Nats - two in a row!!

Sunderland said...

CBS Sports site that lists current MLB injuries.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, it is the height of incompetence that the Nats have failed to address these health problems. How they allowed LaRoche to bruise his foot or Morse to use his Lat - I mean come on folks - they obviously don't know what they're doing. I would feel much better with a healthy team like the Phillies, Reds, Royals, Braves, Tigers, Twins, Indians, Orioles, Pirates, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, ... Rangers, Giants, and ... oh wait .... They all have injuries? Cr@p!!! ... nevermind.

Mark'd said...

Flores, DeRosa, Bernadina are in. The bench after that is beyond bad.

Sunderland said...

Mark'd, you don't like Lombardozzi on the bench?

jd said...


I disagree. Players like Carrol, Tracy, Michaels are typical bench major league bench players who get one at bat a game at most. You don't get Pujols for the bench. Bench players are bench players for a reason.

I think all of these players are a level up from Cora,Stairs etc. The problem happens when bench players have to play regularly because of injuries but this happens to all teams.

Mark'd said...

After watching Lombo at 3rd base over the weekend with 2 errors in 1 inning I have my reservations about him.

Mark'd said...

jd, I would take Livo over Stairs as a bench player.

jd said...


SO you form your opinion based on 1 inning in ST?

I prefer to have a bigger sample size; like maybe a month or so.

Sunderland said...

If you look at the benches across the NL, ours is normal. And Lombardozzi is not a 3rd baseman. The crew at Rawlings thought enough of his defense to award him the minor league Gold Glove for 2nd base.

Mark'd said...

jd, I said reservations about Lombo. I think the Nats put too much confidence in Harper and needed to add Beltran or Crisp.

Having both Morse and LaRoche as DL candidates is beyond bad when you consider their replacements.

Anonymous said...

If I understand correctly, Crisp was being very picky as an FA, and though he might have come East, in the end he didn't--and not for lack of offers. He may regret it now, but can't be traded until June.

jd said...


I think the Nats never expected Harper to make the club out of ST. Every team has injuries and everyone suffers a big drop off when the bench players have to be in the every day lineup.

Beltran is waay to expensive to be brought in as insurance and he is more than likely to spend months on the DL himself. Crisp is a C- player; not much better than the people you call beyond bad.

I think we all need to keep in mind that in the overall scheme of things the bench may make a difference of 1 to 2 wins a year; it's not that big of a deal. I had said before that we are still a year away when players like Harper and Rendon may make a difference of 10 wins a year.

Theophilus said...

I suspect this goes back to uncertainty all winter over whether LaRoche would ready (because of the surgery, not the ankle). Nats didn't know whether they should be looking for bench players and or full-time players so let pass the opportunity to strike early on some of the best bench players -- some of whom are now starters elsewhere.

I think Morse starts the year on the DL, DeRosa plays every day, platooning w/ LaRoche at 1B and in LF against RHs, Carroll platoons w/ Ankiel, Lombardozzi, Bernadina and Flores filling in the holes. Not very imposing. All it will take to completely upset the applecart will be one significant injury to one of the infielders. Carroll being able (?) catch probably secures his spot -- unless he turns out to be a Matt LeCroy who can't hit.

If they could trade Bernadina for his RH alter ego it would make things a lot better.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Crisp and Belran are the kind of players that look good when they are one somebody else's team and you only see highlights. Beltran is just not that young but might want a multi-year deal. Wrong direction for this team.

Anonymous said...

Neither Beltran nor Crisp, nor anyone else at that level, was going to sign where they might spend most of the year on the bench, and that is the likely situation they faced when Harper comes up.

sjm308 said...

Maybe one other thing that influenced Rizzo is his great faith in the youth that could be a factor as early as next year. We honestly do have prospects in the OF that, if they have good years in the minors, should get shots next year or maybe even in Sept. I have read good things here on Perez, I believe Michael Taylor has great talent, and Corey Brown had a solid ST this year. Add Harper to that mix and it might have influenced Rizzo from going after Beltran, Pierre etc.

That does not solve issues for this year but I am guessing that Rizzo has to constantly be thinking ahead as well as staying in the present.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

"Wants to start" doesn't always mean "Starter";
"Starter" is not the same as "First Ballot HOF";
It doesn't have to be Pujols to be good.

I would have liked to see them make a run at both, but Crisp and Beltran both wanted to start, and you risk Adam Kennedy II--This Time, The Team's Decent, if they really think they need beer goggles to sign with you. For all I know, that's what happened.

Mark'd said...

jd, you're right, I'm wrong. This is opinions, not stating facts. Beyond Flores, the positive WAR on everybody from Ankiel to Michaels is suspect.

Crisp on Fangraphs was a 2.2 WAR last year and is projected as a 2.9 this year.

Ankiel was a 1.4 WAR last year and was a negative WAR with the bat.

jd said...


First of all you are exactly right. We are having a discussion; it's not personal and neither one of us is guaranteed to be right.

On Crisp; he has a 2.2 playing more regularly than Ankiel I think given equal time their WAR numbers would be in the same ballpark (and I am no fan of Ankiel and I think that we would be a much better team if he didn't have to play every day).

sjm308 said...

Mark'd - not taking sides here, I like Crisp and what he would have brought but didn't he state that he wanted to stay in the West and also didn't he want a two year deal? I realize that money would have alleviated his west coast wishes but I am not sure where he fit when Harper came up. I am guessing the answer would be to trade either Morse or LaRoche (not sure LaRoche is tradable) but there certainly would have been a logjam. I am also guessing that Ankiel will handle the bench thing better than Crisp would.

Again, I like Crisp but I just don't think its the right fit.

Steve M. said...

Look at it this way, the Nats may have to place both LaRoche and Morse on the DL and instead of 5 bench players add 2 more bench types as they have to fill LF and 1st base now and CF still won't be manned by a top player so essentially 3 of your 8 position players will be manned by players who are fill-ins.

Mark'd thank you for pointing out Crisp's WAR. FanGraphs gave him a negative on defense which brought down his overall WAR. His clutch numbers were well above average. JD can call him a C- which is below average, I still think he is a B- overall. Water under the bridge now.

I warned since the start of the off-season that Morse may be the team's 1st baseman if LaRoche couldn't go and the team needed a Plan B. Always plan proactively.

Here we are 10 days away from Opening Day and debating on an outfield of Werth, Ankiel, and Bernadina to start the season and an infield of Zim, Desi, Espi, and DeRosa.

Not how you would have penciled it up.

Mark'd said...

jd, yes WAR is cumulative and its not Crisp's fault that Ankiel couldn't stay healthy. Nothing would make Ankiel's horrendous .296 OBP better. He is beyond bad with the bat. A glorified defensive replacement.

Mark'd said...

We should be incensed that another Opening Day with journeymen in the Opening Day starting lineup. I expect Ankiel to start off well. As soon as he tweaks something it will be downhill from there.

Dave said...

Certainly how you would have penciled it up, but probably still better than last year. DeRosa looks better than an injured LaRoche did last year, Zim clearly looks better / healthier, and while we thought Morse looked great in ST, in retrospect we know he was about to slump badly in April. Even with Desi's struggles this spring, he's looked better than he did in April last year. So ... not to be too much of a PollyAnna, this isn't a disaster even if Morse & LaRoche are out for a week or two, especially if you consider the stronger rotation.

Dave said...

Sorry, meant "NOT how you would have penciled it"

Section 222 said...

Mark's recent tweet:

Any doubt you'll be ready for Opening Day? LaRoche: "No, not right now. Again, it's not something I can't play with."

For a minute, I wondered if this tweet had been caught in the cloud since Spring Training 2011. That didn't turn out too good.

DFL said...

Anybody against Tyler Moore at first if La Roche and Morse are shelved for a while?

DWS said...

Not me.

JamesFan said...

The Nats have what they have. I want the tinkering to stop and decisions made on the players to stick with the team. Put the team together and play them the way they will play in the season. Pitch the starters five innings and line up the bullpen without Storen. DJ, settle this thing down and get some consistency in the lineup from here on out.

Tinkerbell said...

Awww, that's no fun.

UnkyD said...

Fast forward to July 1: imagine relative health, with Harper in CF, with Werth and Morse, IF of AL, Espi, Desi, Zim, Moose. Now your bench is Lombo, DeRosa, Ankiel, Flores, and Carroll(?). To me, that's above grade, especially if Carroll can catch an inning or 2, in a pinch. Seems optimistic, but really, it's as likely as not...

The bench always looks better on the bench...

erocks33 said...

To say that the Nats should have signed players like Beltran or Crisp, etc in the offseason is kind of ridiculous. Those types of players were all looking for multiple year deals AND would sign only if they were guaranteed to start. The Nats did the right thing and didn't bring any of them because a multi year deal (even for two years) would have most likely kept them from even thinking of bringing up Harper this season (imagine if they were locked into Werth and Beltran/Crisp with Morse in left and LaRoche at 1B for this season and next?)

No, what the Nats were trying to do was to have flexibility in the OF this season by using a platoon system in CF (Ankiel or Bernadina batting from the left, Michaels or Carroll from the right), with Morse in LF until the early part of the Summer when LaRoche would be traded/released. Then Morse would move to 1B and Harper could be brought up.

Unfortunately, injuries in ST have put those plans on hold for a little bit. It stinks , but as some have noted previously it appears (knock on wood) that the injuries to Morse and LaRoche should be healed relatively soon and they are not the kinds of devastating season-long injuries that have occurred to other teams so far this spring.

Personally, if Morse and LaRoche are on the DL to start the season, then I'm fine with a platoon of Ankiel and Michaels in CF and a platoon of Bernadina and DeRosa in LF, with DeRosa getting some games in also at 1B. I prefer Michaels' career stats versus LHP over Carroll's, and think that since there are fewer games versus LHSP typically, then the difference in defense between Michaels and Carroll would be negligible.

erocks33 said...

Now, if you still want some bats off the bench, I believe all of these players are still unsigned:

Johnny Damon
Magglio Ordonez
Vladimir Guerrero
Hideki Matsui

Of course, there is no way in heck I would want to watch ANY of these guys roaming the OF for the Nats, not even for one inning ...

sjm308 said...

Erocks, you echoed my thoughts about the multi-year contracts and did it much more thoroughly.

Time to not worry about the past or what was or wasn't done. Have to go with what we have and get ready to enjoy that.

I am still thinking 85 to 87 wins and nothing so far has diminished that.

go Nats

blovy8 said...

I think the problem at this point is even if you allowed yourself to believe Damon or Matsui would be better than the Lombardozzi/DeRosa/Bernadina LF at the moment, they wouldn't be ready to play in a week. If Morse's situation continues through April, it'll probably force them to bring up a guy like Nady, and then Harper sooner than they'd like. But they had their chance at those guys all along and did nothing, I don't see that changing, much as I would like the bench improved by a competent lefty like those guys.

jd said...


I agree with your assessment and win projections. I don't think anything terrible has happened yet. Of course if Morse is out for a while that's a big blow because he is a big run producer.

I think Rizzo moved the needle from 75 to 85 wins by adding Gio and Ejax and they would have been a 90 -92 win team with Fielder (I agree with passing on the type of contract he got) and they will be that once Harper graduates to the team and once Rendon makes it or is traded for qual value.

fast eddie said...

I would expect Chad Tracy to get a shot at 1B before Tyler Moore, assuming Laroche and Morse are out. Tracy's has been given a lot of playing time and has had a decent ST.

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