“Right now, there’s still some question marks in the lineup,” Johnson said. “I’m not really comfortable with the way everything fits together right now. I love the ball club. I love the talent level. But I’m not really comfortable with the pieces and the way they fit together.”
Johnson identified four areas he thinks the Nationals should address, three of them pertaining to the bullpen and the usage of relievers. Johnson feels as through the relievers should have more defined roles between set-up men and long men, and he wants the Nationals to have one reliever able to act as a de facto sixth starter – think Miguel Batista last season. He also wants a second left-hander with Sean Burnett, a role newly signed J.C. Romero could fill.
Johnson also expressed his hope for another powerful bat off the bench. Aside from pinch hitter Matt Stairs, the Nationals constructed a bench mostly made up of players whose value lies in their speed and defense. Colorfully, Johnson said he wants “a guy sitting over next to me with a big, hairy chest.”
“I’d like to have a little more offense sitting on the bench, which causes more problems for the opposing manager and creates better matchups for us and protects certain batters in the lineup from always getting ... if it’s a left-handed hitter, always getting a left-handed pitcher,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of issues in my mind that I would like to improve on.”
Johnson said he has spoken to, and will continue to speak with, General Manager Mike Rizzo about what he views as the Nationals’ needs. Rizzo and Jim Riggleman and did not always enjoy regular dialogue, which is sure to change with Johnson, formerly a member of the Nationals front office, in the dugout.
““’m in camp one day, and I already told him I’d like to have somebody with a big, hairy chest sitting next to me,” Johnson said. “But that’s what managers do. You talk to the general manager. You have a perception of what you need. Every general manager I’ve ever been with, if I feel like I have a weakness in the bullpen, if I don’t have a left-hander that I like ... just down the road when I was managing in Baltimore, I told [Pat] Gillick: ‘You know, the right-hand side of my bullpen is kind of beat-up. Let’s get on the horn, talk to some of my scouts, see if they can’t find me a guy who can pitch late in the ballgame from the right side.’ It took about a week, and we picked up [Terry] Mathews. I think his nickname was Cheeseburger. And he came in and we went on and won a wild card my first time in there. So I’ve had an up-close and personal look at the ball club, and I can identify my weaknesses, not just from my perspective, but I look at it from the opposing perspective of the manager managing against me, and where he perceives our weaknesses also.”