As much as Ducks manager Wally Backman treasures Steve Lombardozzi, his sure-fielding second baseman, he doesn’t quite understand why he’s still on Long Island.
Sure, Backman loves winning game, but he also wants to see his players get back to affiliated ball. And, as far as the man making the on-field decisions in Central Islip is concerned, the versatile Lombardozzi has done more than enough to get himself back to the bigs.
“To be honest with you, I don’t understand why a guy like [Lombardozzi] is here,” Backman said. “I know this is a good league, but I just think that in today’s game, if you’re a bench player in the major leagues, you have to be able to play multiple positions because everyone is carrying 13 pitchers. I don’t get it.”
Lombardozzi, who played parts of six seasons in the major leagues — including three with the Nationals — is primarily a middle infield, but can play third, shortstop, and the outfield as well.
“I think Lomboz is a big league player still,” said Backman, referring to Lombardozzi’s nickname. “I really believe that in my heart, that this kid can go to the big leagues, come off the bench, spell guys at all the positions in the infield . . . He’s not a flashy player, but he’s fundamentally sound. He makes all the plays. He turns the double play good from second base. I would expect that he would be gone at some point. But I believe, from what I’ve seen in the big leagues, that this is a guy that can help a major league team.”
Right now, he’s helping the Ducks, who stood a half-game ahead of the High Point Rockers and Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division, entering play Saturday. Lombardozzi, who passed the 100-at bat plateau last week, hit .291 with a home run and 14 RBIs in his first 27 games on Long Island.
“I’ve swung it pretty good, but I’m still not necessarily satisfied with where I’m at,” Lombardozzi, 30, said. “They’re things offensively that I need to continue to work on and just keep my head down, keep working hard, and see what happens.”
Major League organizations are clearly watching what’s happening in Central Islip. Reliever Jose Cuas became the fifth Duck to get picked up this season when the Diamondbacks purchased his contract last week and sent him to Single-A Hillsboro Hops. Lombardozzi is more encouraged than frustrated by seeing his teammates leave for affiliates.
“It’s awesome because that’s why we’re here,” Lombardozzi said. “Guys are working hard and that’s the goal, try and get picked up and work their way back to the big leagues. Every time a guy gets picked up, you’re pumped for him. That’s what it’s all about.”
But, make no mistake, Lombardozzi definitely wants in on all that movement.
“All the guys that are here may not want to be in this league, but we’re here for a reason,” Lombardozzi said. “Everybody’s working hard, trying to do their jobs and everybody has goals.”
Like getting back to where he was.
Lombardozzi’s best years with the Nationals came in 2012-2013. He played in 244 games over those two years, hit .267 with five home runs and 49 RBIs. He also had short stints with the Orioles in 2014, the Pirates in 2015, and the Marlins in 2017.
“Those are years that I’ll never forget,” Lombardozzi said of his Nationals tenure. “It was a great time. I really enjoyed coming up through that organization.”
So, why isn’t he back with an organization yet? Don’t ask Backman.
“We have a lot of guys on this roster right now that, if I was running an organization, I would want them hitting behind one of my top prospects to protect him,” Backman said. “Not only have they already played in the big leagues or are a quality triple-A player, but you use those guys for protection. Lomboz can be the same type of guy in affiliated ball. If he was to go to triple-A for a while to protect those certain prospects when there’s a real tough pitcher, he could handle that situation.”
PARRY OFF TO MEXICO
Ducks ace Bennett Parry had his contract purchased by Pericos de Puebla of the Mexican League last week. Parry, who started the Atlantic League All-Star Game last season before going to the Chinese Professional Baseball League, was 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA, 32 strikeouts, and 12 walks in five starts this season.
“Parry will be very successful in that league,” Backman said. “He’s got a really good change up and left handers usually pitch pretty well in Mexico. But, lefthanders with an exceptional change up are very effective and he’s got a very good change-up. He’ll probably have a really good year.”
Since the Mexican League season ends earlier than the Atlantic League season, it is possible that the Ducks could bring Parry back for the September stretch run and any possible playoff games, Backman said.