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Posted at 07:01 PM ET, 08/21/2012

Davey Johnson on Kurt Suzuki: ‘His offense will be fine’


(ROBERT GALBRAITH - REUTERS)
It’s not an easy task: move to a new city, join a new team in the heart of a pennant race, learn 12 new pitchers and still be expected to swing a bat. Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki has been asked to do all that. But if he doesn’t yet produce offensively, it’s not a concern for the Nationals.

In 11 games so far with his new team, Suzuki is hitting .209 (9 for 43) with two doubles and five RBI. His on-base percentage is .255 and has a .511 OPS — but again, Nationals Manager Davey Johnson isn’t concerned. Suzuki’s current priority is correct: handle the pitching staff. He is a multi-season investment.

“He’s been spending a lot of his time studying our pitchers and studying the opposing pitchers,” Johnson said. “…I think, as we go along, he’s going to get more comfortable with the league and with the staff, and his offense will be fine.”

Over the past three seasons in Oakland, Suzuki, 28, hit .252 with a .698 OPS, averaging 14 home runs. This season has been his worst at the plate.

Johnson said Suzuki had a longer, bigger swing when he first arrived from Oakland weeks ago. He has worked with hitting coach Rick Eckstein on adjusting that. “I like where he’s at right now,” Johnson said.

When he was acquired in an Aug. 3 trade, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said Suzuki’s drop in offensive production could be attributed to splitting playing time more so than he had in the past. Now, Suzuki is still sharing some time with Jesus Flores but is the Nationals’ primary catcher.

Suzuki played all 13 innings in Monday’s wild 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. He went 2 for 6 and his baserunning on the final play helped secure the win. It was his third multi-hit game since becoming a National. Defensively, Suzuki flashed the strong throwing arm the Nationals coveted.

The Nationals have been exposed on the basepaths by opposing teams, mainly because of their pitchers’ slow moves to the plate. Suzuki nabbed Jason Heyward with a bullet of a throw to third base in the first inning. He nearly threw out another runner, catcher Brian McCann, in the eighth inning but shortstop Ian Desmond mishandled the throw.

When Suzuki saw that Flores was in Tuesday’s lineup, he sent a message to Johnson through bench coach Randy Knorr: “Tell the skip I’m a gamer. I don’t need the day off.”

Knorr later joked that Suzuki should have delivered the message himself. Johnson doesn’t want to wear out his players. Suzuki is expected to start Wednesday’s series finale.

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By  |  07:01 PM ET, 08/21/2012

 
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