TAMPA, Fla. -- In the visitors' dugout at Steinbrenner Field during Friday's 4-3 loss to the Yankees in 10 innings, Nationals manager Davey Johnson approached third baseman Steve Lombardozzi with a question.
"You made a great play, hit two line drives and one for a home run," Johnson began. "What, are you trying to make this club or something?"
Lombardozzi just nodded in response. He is hoping to make the club, and going 3-for-3 -- including 2-for-2 with a homer off CC Sabathia, which he said was "neat" -- while looking comfortable at third base wasn't exactly a bad way to prove it.
"I'm trying to fight for a spot here," Lombardozzi said, "so it was a good day."
Lombardozzi is attempting to make the Nationals' 25-man roster as a bench player, trying to fill in for Ian Desmond at shortstop or Danny Espinosa at second as well as Ryan Zimmerman at third base. When it comes time for the club to pick a utility player off the bench, Lombardozzi's defense and versatility could work strongly in his favor.
"I'm trying to get my work in at third, short and second," Lombardozzi said. "Whatever they tell me to do, I'll be ready."
Despite positives, Gio 'never content'
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez gave his performance against the Yankees on Friday afternoon mixed reviews.
Gonzalez referred to his outing as "a learning curve," a "minor setback," lucky but good, a "stepping stone" and, finally, a "good move forward." And indeed, there were both positives and negatives to be taken from his third start of Spring Training, which came in a 4-3 Nationals loss in 10 innings.
A patient Yankees lineup ran up Gonzalez's pitch count to 69 in just 3 1/3 innings, and he walked three batters while throwing 39 of those 69 pitches for strikes. He was erratic in the first and fourth innings, the latter a product of him running out of gas, he said. But Gonzalez breezed through the second and third innings, and he still managed to strike out six batters while only giving up two hits.
"There was more stuff that I needed to work on -- definitely staying in the zone," Gonzalez said. "Can't work my pitch count up by walking people. Definitely, there's a lot of things I need to work on.
"They helped me out a little bit. A little up in the zone, a little down and in, all that stuff. This is a good hitting team. You don't want to mess up too much. ... It's a good hitting team, and you've got to keep the ball away from the bat sometimes. Sometimes you get lucky by missing up. But other than that, it felt good."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he wasn't surprised or concerned that Gonzalez wore down in his final inning, and the manager "took him to the limit" rather than removing Gonzalez after three innings, like the Yankees did with CC Sabathia. Gonzalez agreed that it wasn't anything to worry about but still vowed that his conditioning and arm strength will have improved by this time next week.
In the bigger picture, though, Gonzalez is still focused on getting ready for the regular season. Asked if he was pleased with where he was roughly halfway through Spring Training, the lefty expressed a desire to avoid ever feeling too comfortable.
"There's still more to work on -- you can never stay content," Gonzalez said. "Once you get that attitude of being content, you lose all feel for it. My goal is, 'Always stay hungry, go out there and compete against the best and try to stay healthy.' My main concern is just trying to stay in shape, stay healthy and go out there and try to attack the zone."
In taking on Yanks, Harper learns much
TAMPA, Fla. -- Bryce Harper finally got to face ace left-hander CC Sabathia on Friday afternoon, a matchup he had spoken excitedly about heading into the Nationals' back-to-back games against the Yankees.
It didn't quite turn out the way Harper would have hoped, though. He struck out swinging against Sabathia in the top of the second inning of Washington's 4-3 loss at Steinbrenner Field.
"It was pretty cool -- he snapped some sliders off that were pretty good," Harper said. "Hopefully, I can get him next time."
The 19-year-old Harper -- rated the second-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com -- said he didn't think about facing the Yankees, the team he grew up cheering for, and he hadn't spent any special amount of time watching Sabathia on film to prepare.
"You can't really watch film on a guy like that," Harper said. "He's effectively wild, and he gets guys to chase pitches that you don't really want to chase. You've got a guy that paints on the corners and can throw a pitch three feet out that looks like a strike. CC's a great pitcher, and he's one of the best guys out there."
Harper did manage to get a hit Friday, however, recording a single on a 3-2 curveball from Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes.
Johnson said he was impressed by all of his pitchers in Friday's loss, including right-hander Craig Stammen, who allowed two runs on two hits, a homer and a walk but also struck out four in 2 2/3 innings and bailed out starter Gio Gonzalez in the fourth by striking out the two batters he faced.
Atahualpa Severino suffered the loss Friday after coming in to pitch the 10th inning. Severino walked the leadoff batter, then Melky Mesa reached on a fielding error by third baseman Mark Teahen that advanced Justin Maxwell to third. Severino induced two flyouts, but the second, by Brandon Laird, allowed Maxwell to tag up and score.
Starting in center field Friday, Harper saw one ball hit his way, Doug Bernier's line-drive single in the fifth inning. Harper said he is comfortable in center field and loves playing the position. But isn't it about time more balls started coming his way out there?
"I hope so," Harper said, smiling.
Johnson had no updates Friday regarding the health of Michael Morse (strained lat muscle) and Rick Ankiel (tight left hamstring), both of whom remained behind at the Nationals' facilities in Viera, Fla.