ATLANTA -- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones had nothing but admiration for the Nationals and their right-hander, Stephen Strasburg, who will be pitching against Atlanta on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET.
In fact, Jones went so far as to say that Strasburg has the best repertoire of pitchers he has ever seen in his 19 years in the big leagues.
"He has the best stuff, the best repertoire of pitches, that I've seen on any one single pitcher," Jones said. "He is like a Kerry Wood in his prime and Justin Verlander hybrid.
"[Strasburg] has the fastball, just like those two, the breaking ball just like those two. The changeup is what sets him apart. Verlander has a good changeup, but it is a circle change. It kind of fades away. [Strasburg's changeup] is a 90-plus [mph] split that falls off the table. When you are geared up going for 95-96 and he throws you 90 and the bottom drops out of it, it's a pretty lethal combination."
As for the Nationals as a team, Jones feels they are a club on the rise because of its pitching staff. He also believes once position players such as Michael Morse and Mark DeRosa recover from their injuries, the team "is going to be doubly tough."
Jones believes the Nationals could become like the Phillies when they had a powerful rotation and position players Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were healthy.
"They have the best starting five in the game -- no doubt," Jones said about the Nationals' rotation. "They have power at the top of the rotation. They have power all the way through. All their guys throw 94 to 98, sometimes 100.
"Their bullpen is nothing to sneeze at. They have some good quality lefty/righty arms. The reason they have been able to sustain their level of play through all their injuries to their everyday players is the fact their pitchers keep them in the game, night in and night out. That's the right formula."
Lombardozzi gets start in left field in opener
ATLANTA -- With the right-hander Tim Hudson on the mound on Friday, outfielder Roger Bernadina found himself on the bench and Steve Lombardozzi, who usually plays in the infield, received the start in left field against the Braves.
Lombardozzi will be platooning in left with Xavier Nady until Michael Morse is activated from the disabled list. Manager Davey Johnson said Bernadina has been hot and cold, and the skipper is looking for more consistency at the plate. Bernadina was hitting .224 with two home runs and nine RBIs entering Friday's action.
Johnson denied that Bernadina's days with the team are numbered. The manager is simply going with the hot hand with Lombardozzi, who was hitting .317 with five RBIs and a .385 on-base percentage entering Friday's action.
"[Lombardozzi] is playing very well. His natural position is second base," Johnson said. "I have a guy at second base who needs to get right, and he is starting to get right, in Danny Espinosa. Lombo's on-base percentage is real good, so he is an ideal leadoff hitter for me. He can set the table for the middle of my lineup."
Many in the front office believe Bernadina's ceiling is as a fourth outfielder in the Majors, and the club hasn't had any serious discussions with teams interested in trading for him.
Morse issue free in extended spring game
ATLANTA -- Outfielder Michael Morse, who is on the disabled list because of a torn left lat muscle, played in an extended spring game as a designated hitter on Friday in Viera, Fla. Morse homered and had an RBI single.
According to manager Davey Johnson, Morse didn't have any problems during a throwing session. Throwing has been Morse's biggest problem while dealing with the injury.
Starting Monday, Morse is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac. He is shooting to rejoin the Nats on June 8 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
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.