Playoff spot is only first step for Nationals

Playoff spot is only first step for Nationals

Playoff spot is only first step for Nationals
WASHINGTON -- Although the Nationals clinched a playoff berth on Thursday night, their work is far from over. Manager Davey Johnson's main concern is to win the National League East. It explains why their celebration was subdued in the clubhouse after a 4-1 victory over the Dodgers at Nationals Park.

Johnson made it clear he does not want his team to play in the Wild Card game, which is a one-game playoff.

"That's fun. It's not what I had my eye on, you know," Johnson said. "It's a nice step to get here, but every manager that is leading the division, that's the only thing that matters, winning your division."

Before the postseason starts, Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo must decide who will be on the postseason roster. With Stephen Strasburg out of the rotation because of his innings limit, it's almost a given the Nationals will use a four-man rotation for a short series.

It most likely means John Lannan will be off the postseason roster. Lannan would most likely make the roster if a pitcher such as reliever Sean Burnett is injured. Burnett had some elbow issues a few weeks ago, but appears to be fine.

The Nationals also have to determine their bench. A player like infielder Mark DeRosa is on the bubble because he has missed a lot of time because of injuries. But he has been a great teacher and keeps the clubhouse loose. This could mark the second time DeRosa has missed the postseason. He was with the 2010 Giants, who beat the Rangers in the World Series, but he was off the postseason roster because of injuries.

On paper, the Nationals appear set with a bench that includes Roger Bernadina, Jesus Flores, Steve Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy. If DeRosa gets on the postseason roster, the Nationals would likely have to drop a reliever. That appears doubtful.

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.