(Jonathan Newton/TWP) (Jonathan Newton/TWP)

Nationals Manager Davey Johnson wouldn’t make it official now — that’s not his way of operating so far in advance — but the way he talked about the Nationals’ regular season lineup on Wednesday was as close to it as he could come. In Johnson’s mind, the ideal opening day lineup for the team would feature Denard Span as the leadoff hitter, Jayson Werth hitting second, Bryce Harper third and Ryan Zimmerman as the cleanup hitter, followed by Adam LaRoche.

“It depends on how we come out of spring, how guys are swinging,” said Johnson, hedging his bet. “If everybody’s swinging good, that’s got a good chance.” Pressed on the matter, Johnson turned coy and trailed off: “You saw the lineup the other day. If you didn’t get any glimmer of hope into what I was thinking…”

It’s not particularly breaking news, but it was, for a moment, at least, the most definitive hints that the Nationals’ lineup will look like that on April 1 barring any injuries or changes.

Harper said earlier this spring he liked hitting in the second spot of the lineup and would like to stay there. But Johnson said that he preferred the left-right-left balance of the lineup and because it makes it tougher for opposing manages to bring in a left-handed reliever, for example, to face multiple left-handed hitters in a row. This would, of course, push Zimmerman out of the spot in the lineup he has commanded for years.

“I did talk to Zim earlier this spring, I said, ‘I might put you in the four-hole some this year,'” Johnson said. “He said he didn’t care. He said as long as Harper didn’t drive all the runs in before he got up.”

>>> A mere formality but worth noting: the Nationals announced they’ve agreed to terms with 18 players on 2013 contracts, which includes players like Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Steve Lombardozzi and others. That’s the amicable way, when both sides agree to the deal. All players are now signed for next season.