Steve Lombardozzi is not a power hitter. He's never hit a home run in the big leagues and managed just 17 round-trippers in 447 minor league games.
He's also not really an outfielder. He never played a game there in the minors, and entering this weekend's series against Atlanta, he had accumulated 521?3 innings in left field this season.
He also doesn't speak fluent French, but that, like the previous two statements, deserves a resounding, "So what?" Lombardozzi can flat out hit a baseball, and that skill -- on a frequently run-challenged ballclub -- is really all that matters at the moment.
When Nationals skipper Davey Johnson stated last winter that he thought he could get Lombardozzi 300 to 350 plate appearances this year, I was as skeptical as anyone. He was a solid second baseman who had played a little shortstop and a single game at third in the minors, and Washington had a regular double-play combination in Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond. Getting Lombardozzi more than 300 at-bats seemed like wishful thinking.
In spring training, though, the manager gave him some reps in left field. Chalk it up to genes if you'd like -- Lombardozzi's dad was also a major leaguer -- but his instincts for the game didn't betray him. He was a more than adequate outfielder, and his propensity to hit .300 or better increased his value to the ballclub.
Some fans believe a platoon at second base might make more sense than a conversion from infielder to outfielder, and some current numbers support that to a large extent. Entering this weekend's series against Atlanta, Espinosa was hitting .333 as a right-handed hitter and just .190 as a lefty, with 48 strikeouts in 137 at-bats. Lombardozzi, also a switch hitter, was batting just .111 as a right-handed hitter and .365 from the other side of the plate. When you combine the dominant numbers into a single player, you end up with a .355 hitter, a figure that would put the two-headed second baseman in the top five of the NL.
That aside, I completely understand Johnson's desire to put both players in his everyday lineup. Espinosa's offensive production has picked up in the last two weeks, and his ability to hit the long ball can't be easily dismissed. Lombardozzi's consistent ability to put the ball in play and get on base makes him the most natural pick to hit leadoff.
The Nationals' potential everyday outfield of Lombardozzi, Bryce Harper and Michael Morse will lack outfield experience. But Johnson has been known to occasionally sacrifice a little defense for a bigger offense. And for the ballclub to survive in the NL East, maintaining a plus-four runs per game average is imperative.
Lombardozzi is a baseball player. His actual position on the field is of less importance than his name in the lineup. It's OK with him so it should be fine with everybody else.
Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to "Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.