For Lombardozzi, it's all about having a plan
Nationals rookie serious about preparation before games
WASHINGTON -- Nationals infielder/outfielder Steve Lombardozzi is not going to get the publicity like one of his teammates, Bryce Harper, but there is no denying that Lombardozzi is a talented player.
In fact, it's safe to say that he is one of Washington's best hitters. Entering Friday's action against the Braves, Lombardozzi is hitting .320 with seven RBIs and a team-leading .381 on-base percentage.
"It starts with having a game plan, having an approach with your early work," Lombardozzi said. "When I go into early work, I say, 'What am I going to accomplish?' I'm not going into the cage just to take 100 swings. I have a routine and I'm sticking to it. In the game, I go to the plate with the game plan against the pitcher I'm going to face."
What impresses hitting coach Rick Eckstein the most is that Lombardozzi is mentally tough. Lombardozzi is a second baseman by trade, but he doesn't let playing different positions affect his hitting.
"Lobo has moved around like a utility-type player -- second base, third baseman," Eckstein said. "He has just showed up and says, 'OK, where am I playing today?' And then he says, 'All right, time to [get to work].'
"He shows up every day and he has a disciplined plan. He is going to prepare for each game. He is very impressive of how disciplined he is with that. He has strike-zone discipline, he has a compact swing, he is very line-drive oriented. He looks like he is going to make a lot of contact and put pressure on the defense."
Lombardozzi, 23, started the season as a utility infielder. He is currently platooning in left field with Xavier Nady. Manager Davey Johnson put Lombardozzi in the mix because the skipper wanted more consistency at the plate.
"He is one hell of a ballplayer," Johnson said. "He has given me quality at-bats every time up. He has learned to be a little more aggressive when it comes to pinch-hitting. Arguably, if I was putting together a lineup, I would put together a lineup with him leading off. He has been outstanding getting on base."
Lombardozzi's success doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed his career. Before getting his September callup last year, he was the Nationals' 2011 Minor League Player of the Year and won a Minor League Gold Glove. He led the Nationals' Minor Leaguers in hits and runs scored in 2010 and last year.
Lombardozzi credits his success to his parents, Steve Lombardozzi Sr., a former Major Leaguer, and his mother, Jill. They taught their son to love the game and play it the right way.
"My parents had such an impact on me," Lombardozzi said. "My dad has been through it. I have somebody that I can talk to about on-field, off-the-field stuff. Ever since I was young, my dad just prepped me and just talked to me about different things, different situations, how to handle yourself, how to prepare. It's something I've been working toward my whole life."
What's next for Lombardozzi? It would not come as a surprise if he continues to play often even after outfielder Michael Morse is activated from the disabled list. Johnson hinted that Morse could be moved to right field, while Lombardozzi remains in left.
"My job is to put the best eight guys on the field, and if I have to play one guy out of the group out of position to get his [Lombardozzi] in the lineup, I have to do it," Johnson said. "When Michael Morse comes back, he could be taking fly balls in right field. He has more experience in right field."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.