Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 8/17/12

With the expected return of shortstop Ian Desmond on Friday for the series opener against the New York Mets, the Washington Nationals will have their complete starting nine intact for one of the rare times this season.

Desmond has been on the disabled list since July 22 with a left oblique strain but has taken part in early batting practice and full workouts this week in anticipation of his return to full-time duty.

So with Desmond's return, the outfield will consist of Michael Morse, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

The infield features Ryan Zimmerman, Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Adam LaRoche.

Kurt Suzuki will be the catcher.

This is the lineup that manager Davey Johnson had hoped to have ready for the stretch drive. Now the Nationals can see what they can do when they have all their pieces healthy.

While Desmond has been out, Espinosa and second baseman Steve Lombardozzi have developed a great chemistry on defense. They also have hit. The duo combined for 34 hits on the recent 10-game road trip.

"They have really been outstanding," Johnson said. "I can't say it enough. They are professional. They play great defense. Their offense has been great, and it has even picked up since Desmond has been out."

The Nationals went 8-2 against the Astros, Diamondbacks and Giants. They have won 10 of their last 12 games.

Now with Desmond returning, where does that leave Lombardozzi? Johnson said Lombardozzi can play other positions on defense and will platoon from the leadoff spot.

"I will find him spots," Johnson said. "He has been great in the outfield. He is great leading off. I am going to lead off Werth. I can rest Lombardozzi when I lead off Werth. I can play him some at third, some at second, just expand the role."

Johnson said he has seen a difference in Lombardozzi the last few weeks because he is getting five at-bats every day.

"I think he is more relaxed in the infield," Johnson said. "He feels like a more complete player at his position. He has been outstanding. He has had a great year, unbelievable year."

Johnson expects to have Werth lead off at times so he can pack the lineup with heavy hitters and find a place for Desmond, who was off to his best start as a pro before the injury.

One other way to get Lombardozzi in the lineup is to have him share playing time in center with Harper, who is hitting just .094 (3 for 32) in his last nine games. Lombardozzi, a switch hitter, is batting .294 left-handed and .238 right-handed.

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