Phil Wood: Trimming Nats' roster down to just 25

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Phil Wood
The remaining decisions on the Nationals' Opening Day 25-man roster will be made in the next few days, and it's coming down to deciding who's going to claim the bench positions.

At this point the pitching staff should consist of starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and John Lannan. The bullpen will be Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge, Henry Rodriguez, Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny and Ross Detwiler. With Drew Storen starting the year on the DL, the extra bullpen spot is between Ryan Mattheus and likely Chad Durbin.

The starting infield has a healthy Adam LaRoche at first, Danny Espinosa at second, Ian Desmond at short and Ryan Zimmerman at third. The outfield left-to-right would have been Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel and Jayson Werth, but Morse is on the disabled list. The catchers are Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores. The total thus far is 20 (minus Morse), leaving five spots open for the bench.

I'm going to assume that Roger Bernadina is on the club. He's a veteran now, has had a pretty good spring following the extraction of a bothersome tooth and can spell any of the outfield positions.

Mark DeRosa got a big league contract with the Nats and has had a strong spring. Any doubts that his wrist surgery was a success have been dispelled. He's been able to drive the ball and has shown his versatility in the field. That gives us 22 players.

The other three spots will come from Chad Tracy, Brett Carroll, Xavier Nady and Steve Lombardozzi. Here's where it gets tricky.

Tracy is a left-handed hitter with power. He's played mostly first base this spring but has also played third and the corner outfield spots during his big league career. His versatility is a plus. He'll be 32 in May.

Carroll has gotten a lot of at-bats this spring in center field. He's a right-handed hitter, but offense is not a big part of his game. He's a terrific defender and seemingly content as a role player.

Nady is a late entry into this contest. A 10-year veteran, Nady is a first baseman-outfielder who bats from the right side. He only signed on March 18 but has displayed enough to thrust himself into the equation. He's got legit power and is more than adequate defensively.

Lombardozzi is the youngster of this group at 23. A local product, Lombardozzi's really proved all he should have to on the minor league level. He's hit consistently in the .300 range at every level of the Nationals' farm system and has played an above average second base. He's a switch hitter and has gotten reps at third and in left this spring. He can also steal a base.

Expect those last two of the last three spots to be taken by the more versatile players: Lombardozzi and Tracy. Manager Davey Johnson has been quoted a couple of times as wanting a lefty bat with power on the bench, and Tracy can fill that slot. Carroll is an insurance policy in center, and Nady has already been the subject of trade rumors.

That's 25.

Examiner columnist Phil Wood is a baseball historian and contributor to MASN's Nats Xtra. Contact him at philwood@washingtonexaminer.com.

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