There was a cool scene Sunday morning in the Nationals’ clubhouse. Jason Michaels, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond and Mark DeRosa sat in a circle talking about hitting, with John Lannan listening. One player would stand and, with a bat in his hands, emulate a certain hitter’s swing. A specific pitcher would come up. There was constructive debate, intent nodding and frequent laughter.
It was reflective of the vibe at Nationals camp, which, as Boz wrote this weekend, owes in large part to Davey Johnson. The Nationals have a young team, but there are plenty of veterans sprinkled throughout the clubhouse. Johnson gives them the freedom to create their own feel. They don’t get sick of baseball after long practices; they’re hungry for more after efficient workouts.
The phrase “player’s manager” is cliche, but that’s what players most often call Johnson. The other day, Johnson told the players to condition on their own. Most players simply went inside to lift. That didn’t tell Johnson he had a lazy team. “That told me they were getting plenty of work,” Johnson said.
After Sunday’s unsightly, 10-2 loss, the first thing Johnson did was take blame for the way Tom Gorzelanny’s start unfolded. He brushed off Ian Desmond’s two errors – it’s the first game of spring, what’s the big deal?
“My first year was a little different,” Stephen Strasburg said after his first spring start. “I felt like I was more ready for the season once spring games started. Now, I’ve kind of noticed that we’re treating it more to build up still. These are games, they matter, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Hey, go in here, get better every single day.’ Whereas the first year, it was like ‘Ready to go, Game 1.’ ”
Johnson’s goal is to let players competing for spots on the roster get the brunt of playing time in spring games while conserving his everyday players, ramping them up slowly, to be feel ready for opening day one week before opening day. Johnson has tried to make Nationals camp more relaxed, more confident, and it’s had a clear effect.
FROM THE POST
This weekend, Boz said Davey Johnson has left his mark on Nationals’ camp.
Also from this weekend, the pitching matchup in the Nationals’ first Grapefruit League game represented the team’s direction.
FROM THE JOURNAL