WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson decided to start Steve Lombardozzi at second base in Game 1 of Thursday's traditional doubleheader against the Dodgers.

Johnson said for several weeks that Lombardozzi would see action at second or short. The rookie comes with a reputation as being a patient hitter. In 134 games for Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg, he hit .309 with eight home runs, 52 RBIs and a .360 on-base percentage.

"I was really impressed with the kind of year that he had," Johnson said. "His reputation is that he is a baseball player."

Johnson planned to give Lombardozzi two days to observe the action before putting him into a game, but the Nationals' skipper had Lombardozzi pinch-hit in the eighth inning Tuesday, an at-bat that resulted in a walk.

"He was able to get into a game a couple of days ago and had a quality at-bat. He got on base," Johnson said. "I talked to him even before the game the other day and told him that I was going to use him primarily at second and short. I would like to put him anywhere and let him play."

Lombardozzi getting the nod in the first game meant that Danny Espinosa was relegated to the bench. Entering Thursday's action, Espinosa was hitting .229 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs. In his last two games against the Dodgers, Espinosa struck out a combined seven times.

Asked if Espinosa was tired, Johnson said, "I think he is kind of mentally tired, not physically tired. He tries so hard and he works so hard. Sometimes that can work against you.

"Ideally, I wouldn't have played him as much as I have, but I really enjoy watching him play and experience is invaluable to him. He is a heck of a player. He can only get better."

Pudge to be in reserve role for rest of season

WASHINGTON -- It appears unlikely that Ivan Rodriguez will start another game behind the plate this season.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that he plans to start Wilson Ramos at catcher, with Jesus Flores serving as the backup.

Johnson reiterated that Rodriguez has nothing to prove to the Nationals, and he needs to play his young catchers.

"He is ready to catch," Johnson said about Rodriguez. "He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He can still play. I have two guys that need to play more than he does for the reasons that are beneficial to the club.

"One, Ramos is the No. 1 catcher. He needs all the experience he can get. Two, Flo is coming back from two years on the shelf. He can regain his shape. That's very important. That's more important than Pudge getting in a game. I know [Rodriguez] wants to play and is ready to play. I explained that to him once."

Rodriguez, who is a free agent after the season, said he would like to play four more years in the big leagues. He is 158 hits from 3,000.

Nats hope to get Mattheus back by Sept. 20

WASHINGTON -- Reliever Ryan Mattheus, who's on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder, has started playing catch and will have a bullpen session on Sunday at Nationals Park.

On Tuesday, Mattheus will have another bullpen session followed by one on Sept. 15.

If everything goes according to plan, Mattheus will throw a simulated game on Sept. 17. The Nationals hope to see Mattheus in a game by Sept. 20.

Mattheus has been a reliable reliever, going 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA in 32 games.

Worth noting

• The Nationals are bringing up Triple-A Syracuse manager Randy Knorr and pitching coach Greg Booker to the big leagues on Thursday.

Both are expected to serve as consultants for manager Davey Johnson, who needs to get an idea about callups, such as outfielder Corey Brown and right-hander Craig Stammen.