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Posted at 04:54 PM ET, 02/22/2012

Davey Johnson’s coaches aren’t telling how good Bryce Harper looks in batting practice


(Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)
Davey Johnson spends his mornings with the pitchers, so he relies on his coaches to keep an eye on the early-arriving position players taking batting practice across the complex. Around a conference table, they share, name by name, how each hitter looks.

“And a funny thing happened today,” Johnson said. “They were talking Rendon, LaRoche, Lombardozzi, Espi, damn near everybody over there. I asked them, I said, ‘I didn’t hear one word about Harper? Is he there?’ They said, ‘He’s okay, he’s fine.’ They don’t want to make a comment. Because they like him. They don’t want to try to influence me in any manner.”

Johnson’s point was, he thinks the coaches are worried Johnson will get too excited about putting Bryce Harper on the opening day roster. Johnson has been the most vocal Nationals advocate, giving Harper a shot to make the team, but he insisted he has not decided on his stance.

“My mind’s not made up. I just want everybody to be [open-minded], including y’all and {Mike Rizzo]. Let’ see what we see.”

Johnson has shared the basis for his open-mindedness several times, and did so again today. When he managed the New York Mets in the mid-80s, he pressured the organization to put Dwight Gooden, then 19 with only a few games of experience above Class A, in the majors. Johnson got his wish, and Gooden produced one of the greatest seasons for a pitcher in modern baseball history.

The year before Johnson agitated for Gooden to make the majors, he lobbied for him to pitch in the Class AAA playoffs when he managed the Mets’ affiliate.

“I had Dwight Gooden when he was 18 pitching for me in the Class AAA World Series,” Johnson said. “Did I care that he was 18? I told the organization that I thought the best pitcher down below wasn’t in Double A. He was in A ball, in Lynchburg, a guy named Dwight Gooden. They let me have him for the playoffs, and he won two games. I knew he could flat-out pitch. I don’t look at age or color – you can either play or you can’t.”

So, no, age will not be a factor, in Johnson’s mind, when it comes time to choose the team.

By  |  04:54 PM ET, 02/22/2012

 
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