Nats could be in market for infield depth, pitching still a possibility
NEW YORK — Nats manager Davey Johnson has maintained the stance for the last few weeks — and reiterated before Tuesday’s game at Citi Field — that he doesn’t see much sense in selling the farm for a rental if the team shuts down Stephen Strasburg, particularly given how well John Lannan pitched in a doubleheader spot start this weekend.
“I don’t look for us to be a buyer or a seller,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a great GM and he’s looking at all the players that might be available and seeing if there’s anyone that might be able to help us. Even with Strasburg being limited this year, we’ve got Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan, who are awfully good replacements. I like my bench, I like my bullpen, I don’t see the need to make any changes in makeup or configuration of the ballclub.”
A source tells MLB.com that the team is still looking for a starting pitcher that would be a better option than Lannan — who has been dependable over the last five years — or Wang, who has struggled in the rotation and bullpen and is currently on the DL.
The team is also in the market for a utility infielder to add depth to an middle infield unit that took a big hit with the loss of All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond, who could miss a month or more with an oblique tear.
Danny Espinosa, who shifted over from second base, is an entirely capable shortstop and Steve Lombardozzi, who played second in a limited role and also outfield, can play second on a regular basis. That figures to be the lineup for the foreseeable future, but that leaves Mark DeRosa as the team’s backup middle infielder. That being the case, it would make sense for the team to pick up another piece in case either Lombardozzi or Espinosa needs a day, or there is another injury.
Espinosa has been red-hot, taking a career-high nine-game hitting streak into Tuesday night’s game and is batting .414 (15-for-36) with three doubles, a triple, a homer and five RBIs in that span. Lombardozzi was a Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove recipient at second base in 2011.
“Danny has handled that transition from short to second — he had great training in college — and he’s looking like a very polished shortstop to me,” Johnson said.
The D-backs designated Ryan Roberts for assignment on Tuesday and our Steve Gilbert reports that a trade is near, but Roberts has played just one game at shortstop in his seven-year career.
– Joey Nowak