This morning, Johnson addressed Nationals pitchers and catchers as a group before their first organized workout of the spring. Johnson stressed two main points: the importance of communication and the primacy of staying healthy, outlawing any pitches aside from fastballs and changeups on Day One.
“If you have problems, little things like that, make it abundantly clear what we need to do,” Johnson said. “It’s not complicated, but just that we communicate with each other. If you’ve got a problem, it’s my job and the coaches’ job to ease it for you. All of us are here to enable you guys to play up to your potential.”
For the pitchers who threw bullpen sessions today, Johnson wanted them to take it easy, especially those trying to make the team. He emphasized each pitcher in competition would receive the same opportunity. Once games start, Johnson will piggyback a set of 10 starters for the first two rotations – for the first 10 games, in other words, one starter will replace another, with each pitching two or three innings.
“You can’t tell me with me around and the coaching staff and teammates around and they’re battling for jobs that there isn’t an adrenaline rush, you know what I mean?” Johnson said. “As much as you try to low-key it, it’s there.
“My job is to get them all ready for the season to start. I don’t need guys trying to come out of the chute like they’re ready to start the year. I told them no breaking balls. Even though they had already probably done that, I wanted to institute things that I’m comfortable with. I don’t want guys to stress their elbow or their shoulder too much, trying to impress me or their new pitching coaches. Those are the kind of things I need to get across that are paramount.”
The pitchers complied, save one rogue cutter, which Johnson considered a breaking ball. The players welcomed his messages.
“I think it’s awesome,” starter Gio Gonzalez said. “He’s telling you, Here, relax guys, you’re not going to make the team on the first day. Just enjoy yourself. Go out there, try to get your arm loose, don’t hurt yourself. I think that sets the tone right there that he’s really looking for us.”
Among starters, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Chien-Ming Wang, Craig Stammen and Yunesky Maya threw today, along with relievers Drew Storen, Chad Durbin, Sean Burnett and Jeff Fulchino, Rafael Martin and Atahualpa Severino.