Washington Nationals' Ian Desmond's Return; Steve Lombardozzi's Role.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 15: Steve Lombardozzi #1 is congratulated by Danny Espinosa #8 after Lombardozzi scored on a two run single from Jayson Werth #28 (not pictured) in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

With a 4 for 5 game in which he doubled twice (16) and stole his fourth base of 2012 on Wednesday in the series finale with the Giants in AT&T Park, soon-to-turn-24-year-old infielder Steve Lombardozzi wrapped up a ten-game road trip through Houston, Arizona and San Francisco in which the Washington Nationals' '08 19th Round pick was 17 for 44 (.386 AVG). On the year the 2011 MiLB Gold Glove winning infielder now has a .280/.329/.364 line with 16 doubles, three triples and two home runs in 98 games and 332 at bats. After starting the last twenty-plus games he's about to become a utility infielder again, however, maybe as soon as this weekend.

Washington Times' writer Amanda Comak (@acomak) reported on Twitter after the third of three with the Giants that shortstop Ian Desmond, as rumored, might be back sooner than later. "You can expect Ian Desmond to be activated on Friday," the Times' Nats beat writer wrote, "Still playing sim game tomorrow but, 'He's good to go,' Davey [Johnson] said." The Nats' manager talked about Desmond's return and what it meant for Lombardozzi in the post game press conference after the 6-4 win over San Francisco yesterday. "Well, I'll find him spots," Johnson said, "He's been great in the outfield. He's great leading off." Werth's likely to lead off now with Desmond back in the lineup according to Johnson, but Lombardozzi can fill in wherever he's needed in the order and the field.

"I can play [Lombo] some at third, some at second, just expand the role," Johnson said.

Johnson did praise the work both Lombardozzi and Danny Espinosa, (who has a .297/.342/.478 line so far in the second half after a brutal .232/.309/.374 first half), have done as the Nats' middle infield combo with Desmond out. "They've been really outstanding," the manager said, "I can't say it enough. They're professional, they've played great defense, and their offense has been great. It's even picked up with Desi out."

In 24 games and 108 PA's before Wednesday afternoon's game with San Francisco, Espinosa, playing short with Desmond down since July 22nd, has gone 28 for 100 with a .280/.333/.460 line, six doubles and four home runs... and 30 Ks. The Fulton, Maryland-born Lombardozzi had a .289/.337/.392 line with a double, three triples and a home run in 23 games and 104 plate appearances before his four hit game against the Giants after having taken over full-time at second base when Espinosa shifted to short.

Playing every day has definitely settled Lombardozzi down according to his manager. "I think he's more relaxed being in the infield," Johnson said, "He feels more like a complete player. That's his position. And he's been outstanding and once you get comfortable at your own spot it's easy for the other side to kick in... and, shoot, he's had a great year. Unbelievable year."

The plan coming into the season, as D.C. GM Mike Rizzo explained it, was to get Lombardozzi around 350 ABs so the team didn't negatively affect his development by keeping him in the majors without starting him. In 332 at bats so far this season, Lombardozzi's shown the Nationals they made the right decision. He's also earned the trust of a manager who told reporters as far back as last November that he was determined to have Lombo on his team in 2012.

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