May 16, 2014, 6:32 PM EDT
Greg Dobbs’ primary job with the Nationals is to come off the bench and produce a key hit late in games. But the newly signed veteran believes he’s more productive when given at least an occasional opportunity to be in the starting lineup, and it looks like he’ll get that opportunity in D.C. as long as first baseman Adam LaRoche is on the disabled list.
“Potentially, yeah,” manager Matt Williams said. “He’s only three or four days removed from wondering where he was going to go or what he was going to do. So we’ll continue to work him out in that regard. But, yeah, over the next couple weeks until Rochie is ready, I envision him playing a little bit of first base.”
LaRoche is eligible to return from his strained quad on May 25. The Nationals have been using Tyler Moore primarily at first base in his stead, but the left-handed-hitting Dobbs is an intriguing option as well.
Dobbs, 35, didn’t get any opportunity at all to play the field with the Marlins during the season’s first month. He received only 13 at-bats, all of them as a pinch-hitter, and wound up with only one hit, leading to his release last week. The Nationals quickly signed him to a minor-league contract and sent him to extended spring training in Viera, where he said he got consistent at-bats and playing time in the field over the last six days.
“I left Viera feeling great,” he said. “I was getting lots of at-bats, five, six, seven at-bats a day, and facing some live arms down there. It felt really good to be out there on the field competing again. I enjoyed my time down there. It’s a great group of guys. My timing feels very good.”
Dobbs (who has played all four corner positions in the big leagues) said he feels more comfortable now stepping to the plate in a pinch-hitting role, but the career .262 hitter knows what a difference even one start per week in the field would make.
“It’s difficult anyways, pinch-hitting,” he said. “But it makes it more challenging if you’re not getting some at-bats here and there, if you’re not getting a spot start here and there. My situation in Miami, that was my role. And I kept my head down and tried to do the best I could at that role and prepare myself as best as possible for possibly that one pinch-hit in a game. But anytime you can get semi-consistent at-bats, it just makes it that much easier.”
No matter his role, Dobbs is thrilled to finally play for a Nationals club that has been on his radar for some time. After spending four seasons with the Phillies and then the 2011 season with the Marlins, he was eligible for free agency. His top choice for a new home at that time? Washington.
The Marlins wound up offering a two-year deal, something Dobbs couldn’t turn down, but he recognized at the time what the Nationals had going entering the 2012 season. More than two years later, he finally gets his chance to play in Washington.
“I could see the makings of this club and how special it could be,” he said. “I knew they were very talented, and I could see that winning would be in the near future for them. In watching that now for the last 2 1/2 years from the other side, I’d like to think I’m pretty smart. My assumptions were kind of correct. And I wanted to be a part of this. I really did. I love this park. I know certain players from before. Great group of guys. It was something that just appealed to me very much and I wanted to be a part of.”
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