18 games into his return to the Major Leagues, Washington Nationals' Skipper Davey Johnson says not much has changed since he was at the helm of an MLB team in LA in 1999-2000. Johnson knows the Nats well, and he told ESPN 980 the Sports Fix's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro the one thing he's still working on is, "Looking at the other ballclubs and the matchups and how we're going to stack up against them." Other than that, Johnson said, "It's the same. I'm a big believer in a great bullpen and a great bench, cause that's where the manager comes into managing really. I mean, your starting lineups, you can tweak that, and your starting pitchers, you basically, that's what you go with, but the way you handle the bullpen and the way you handle your bench is the way you manage against the other manager and the other team."
Johnson announced during the interview that he would tweak tonight's lineup some, after last night's 5-2 win over the Astros. Tonight in Houston, Johnson said, there will be a new leadoff hitter, Danny Espinosa, who's play this year has impressed the former major leaguer, "He's off the charts," Johnson said, "a great talent, him and [Ian] Desmond both."
Though Johnson reiterated in the ESPN 980 interview that he isn't a "proponent of the bunt," in a situation like last night's, in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game with the go-ahead run on first, Johnson said, "I'll use that two-hole to bunt a guy over in a tie ball game 100% of the time, and [Espinosa] laid down a blueprint. To me that was the game-winning blow because he got him into scoring postition for the 3 and 4 [hitters] and that was it. He's done a lot in the field and his bat's been outstanding...and tonight, Tommy," Johnson said to ESPN's Mr. Loverro, "I'm leading him off."
Really? "Yeah," Johnson said, "I'm not going to put him in a position where he has to bunt him over for 3 and 4, and [I'm] actually giving my shortstop a chance to move down the lineup. He's been kind of hinting, 'Skip, move me down, I'm feeling I'm ready.' Well, I think you're not ready, but I'm going to give you a shot anyway."
Roger Bernadina will be in the lineup, batting seventh, Johnson said, "and I'm going to rest [Laynce] Nix and play [Jerry] Hairston," who just returned from the DL and a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg.
Asked about what the future holds for the Nats and if he agrees that the team is built to succeed in the near future, with a pitching staff that has the potentially to be really good really soon, the Nats' Skipper told ESPN 980's Mr. Sheehan, "I think everybody, not only in the organization, but in baseball is excited about the potential for the Nationals. I don't look that far ahead. I look at what we have to do to today to get better and what we have to do tomorrow. That's as far as I really want to look."
The inevitable Jayson Werth question came next with Mr. Loverro asking what the Nationals' manager has done with struggling stars like the Nats' outfielder in the past, and Johnson said, "Most times I give hitting sessions with the players to reinforce what my hitting coach is saying to them and let them know I'm on their side. I've had conversations with Jayson. Basically, he's still learning if he can trust me and doesn't know much about me as the kind of guy that can help as far as the offensive side of it. I'm not really concerned about him. We've got a good relationship. I respect his talent, and I also respect the fact that he can fix himself."
Johnson said he's offered to give Werth a day off, but the outfielder told him, "Skip, I want to play. I want in there." He may give him a rest, but Werth's, "... a competitor, and he's going to get it. I'm not that concerned about it."