WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: Manager Davey Johnson #5 of the Washington Nationals argues a call with home plate umpire Dale Scott #5 in the eighth inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on July 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Mets won the game 8-5. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
• Bring It, Phillies: "He's a good one," a feisty Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said this morning on 106.7 the FAN's Mike Wise Show with Mike Wise (@mikewiseguy) and Holden Kushner (@HoldenRadio) of his old third base coach in New York, Sam Perlozzo, who's now the third base coach with the Phillies. "I really like him. I just want to hand him notice too," Johnson said, delivering a message to Perlozzo and the Nationals' NL East rivals, "The last couple series [with Philadelphia] is going to be the way it's going to be all year with us and [them]." Washington swept the last four games of the year with Philadelphia and finished the season with a 10-8 record against the NL East's best.
Johnson got a lot of people talking with his comments about Bryce Harper during the interview. Asked about what the future holds for Harper and where he'll be playing in 2012, the Nationals' manager said, "I know where he wants to be. I can tell you that right now. He wanted to be in Washington last year." The 19-year-old 2010 no.1 overall pick is currently tearing up the Arizona Fall League, hitting his fifth home run in his last ten games Tuesday night and lifting his AFL line to .290/.357/.613 after 16 games and 62 at bats with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
"I know he's going to cap off a great Fall League," Johnson said, "And I know he's going to come to Spring Training and he's going to want to show us he's the best outfielder we've got." As for whether Harper has a legit shot at making the Opening Day roster or is still in need of more development, the Nationals' manager said, "I'm going to go north with the best group of guys I can lay my hands on. I'm going to keep an open mind. The fact is I've said that one other time to a general manager, I already said that to Rizzo, about a guy named Dwight Gooden, I said, 'Just keep an open mind going into Spring.'"
The 68-year-old skipper, who says he's known Harper and the outfielder's family since the Nats' top prospect was 15, also said it's not a reach to imagine the phenom in the majors in 2012. "You're not reaching at all," Johnson said to the hosts, "I heard your comments earlier about if we can pick up a center fielder, a front-line center fielder, and I don't foresee us doing that in the free agent market. I see us maybe picking up an outfielder out of the free agent market, but I don't so much see us getting a front-line starter that way."
"We've got some good young hitters coming up that can play first base," the Nats' skipper said when the talk turned to free agent solutions for the Nats' needs, and the possibility of Prince Fielder ending up in D.C., "Chris Marrero's a good one. I think you've got to answer the question about how good are the guys you've got. They need to be up playing and playing at their top level. Then you think about adding somebody, that's the formula. You don't go out and do it, spend a lot of money right now to get some big masher."
The talk then turned to pitching and the possibility of the Nationals adding a starter through free agency. "Did you pay attention last year?" Johnson asked the hosts, somewhat rhetorically, "Did you see how [Brad] Peacock pitched? Did you see how [Tom] Milone threw the ball? We've got a guy named [Stephen] Strasburg and another guy named [Jordan] Zimmermann. This is a pretty good crop of guys."
"You can only use five starters, how many do you want? Eight or nine?" Johnson asked.
"The Red Sox could have used eight or nine this year, couldn't they?" Holden Kushner joked.
"Yeah, all those old guys kept breaking down," Johnson responded.
• 106.7 The FAN's The Mike Wise Show w/ Holden Kushner - LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE.