Washington Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson answered a few injury questions at the start of today's pregame press conference. Asked about Ryan Zimmerman's ailing shoulder, Johnson said there was good news. "He threw a lot and got a good sweat working out and then he went in and hit on the tee at probably 75% and he had no discomfort, felt good about it and tomorrow he'll take BP I think, and then we'll see where he's at, see how he feels." As for the possibility of the Nats' 27-year-old third baseman being ready for Sunday's series finale with Philadelphia, the manager said the chance of Zimmerman making it back was miniscule, "But I think Zim's feeling more positive after today. I checked with the medical staff and knowing Zim he'll probably want to play. We were scheduled for Tuesday if all went well, but I wouldn't be averse to Sunday."
Adam LaRoche, who's currently sidelined with right oblique soreness, took some swings today, but the Nats' skipper said, "He swung a little bit at about 30% and could still feel it, so we're not going to try it." Johnson said he didn't think the first baseman would have to go on the DL, but then qualified, "I'm hoping he won't."
After the quick injury updates, the talk inevitably turned to the marketing of this weekend's series with the visiting Philadelphia Phillies. More than a chance to "Take Back" Nats Park, the 69-year-old manager said, "It's another opportunity to show our stuff and compete against the best in the division." The Phillies, Johnson said, provide the team with another measuring stick to see how legitimate their strong start really is. "Every time you go out there you've got to prove if you're any good or not," the manager explained, "and probably the measuring stick has a little more validity when you go up against the previous pennant winner, with a pretty good history."
Asked about all the marketing around the weekend series and around the ballpark, which includes a humongous, "Natitude Park" sign atop the right field scoreboard, Johnson said that he did actually ask that a sign behind home be removed because it was affecting the pitchers' view of home plate, but other than that he seemed more interested in what was going to take place on the field this weekend. "Marketing is marketing," Johnson said, "I don't get caught up in that either. What's going to sell tickets is if we win ballgames. That's the way we're going to take this stadium back."
As for the team's "Natitude" catchphrase, the Nats' manager said, "I can hardly pronounce the word." Johnson was asked to do a promo about voting for the Nationals in All-Star balloting but struggled to pronounce the word, "Natitude," finally telling the people he was working with, "We've got a damn good team here, vote for the Nats."
"We've got an attitude," Johnson continued, "I don't know about Natitude."
Tonight's starter, Stephen Strasburg, is one of the Nationals with the right kind of attitude in his manager's estimation. "You probably can't tell on Stras, but he does," Johnson said, "He takes things personal and that's good. A lot of people just show it differently. But this should be a fun weekend." And it is personal, the manager explained, "'This guy that I'm facing, I'm trying to earn my living here.' That just goes with the territory. You're a competitor and the better the team, the more you better have that attitude. Or Natitude."