Davey Johnson Knows What He Wants

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, July 01, 2011 | , | 0 comments »

"My philosophy is basic: I'm gonna get ahead and then I'll defend." Davey Johnson, manager of the Washington Nationals

Davey Johnson, newly appointed field manager of the Washington Nationals, held his first home press conference since taking over the reigns.  He said his objective is to get the Nats to be a "championship caliber" ballclub.  In a sweeping discussion, he discussed some philosophies he has as a manager and several situations on his club that he'd like to see improvements, including his bench and bullpen.

"I've had an up-close-and-personal look at the ballclub and I can identiy my weaknesses," Johnson said. "And not just from my perspective, but I look at it from the oppposing manager's perspective as well."

Johnson was refeshingly candid in the 15-minute press conference before the Nats take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, kicking off a 10-day, 11-game homestand.

To start, Johnson indicated that Roger Bernadina will remain in centerfield and Rick Ankiel, who returned form the disabled list today, will be the "fourth outfielder."  Jerry Hairston, who was hit with a pitch on his right wrist area, was placed on the 15-day D.L. with a broken bone and will be out 2-4 weeks.

Johnson said he does not plan on hitting the pitcher eighth, something his predecessor was doing on a regular basis, saying that he's a "firm believer that the more guys I can get to home plate the better chance I've got to score, and the pitcher's chances of getting on base are a lot less than the guy hitting behind him, so the more guys I can get up there before the pitcher hits I'm gonna do it."

With regards to his lineup, he feels it's in flux.  He thinks Jayson Werth would be a "great five-hole hitter", but with Werth's problems this season he thinks hitting in the two-hole ahead of Ryan Zimmerman isn't going to hurt him.  He also called out Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond by name as players he "needs to get going a little bit." He said that once the underacheiving players get going it will be easier to re-evaluated the lineup and how best to employ his starters.

"There's still some question marks in our lineup, I'm not realy comfortable with the way everything fits together. I love the ballclub, I love the talent level, but I'm not really comfortable all of the pieces and how they fit together."

When pressed, he actually expanded on what those question marks are. "Number one, there's some issues out of the bullpen. I want to establish guys, set-up guys, guys as long guys.  I'm a little uncomfortable that we don't have a sixth starter. If something happened to my starter I don't like to bring a guy out of the bullpen that's only capable of giving me a couple of innings.  So I'd like to have a long guy. I'd like to have a little more left-handed presence in the bullpen."

"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. There's a lot of isues in my mind I'd like to improve on."

Johnson was asked specifically if Matt Stairs can be that guy on the bench, and he responded that he needs to get Stairs going so that he can be that type of player.  He stressed the need to have a power bat on his bench though, saying he wanted a guy sitting next to him with "a big, hairy chest."  In fact, he mentioned that was the first thing he suggested to GM Mike Rizzo that he'd like to add to his roster.

"Speed, defense are good if we're ahead. But you're not always ahead. And I want to get ahead."

The new skipper said he plans on allowing left fielder Laynce Nix to face more left-handed pitching, and not pinch-hitting with a player known for speed and defense simply for the handedness matchup.  "I am uncomfortable hitting a mostly a defensive specialist, utility-type played for my cleanup hitter."

"I don't want the [opposing manager] to control the matchups, I want to control the matchups."

He's only been on the job for three games, but Johnson definitely has strong opinions about his club and the makeup of the roster.  Several times he said that he's got confidence in the players that he has currently, but also said that a ballclub needs all 25 players performing up to their capabilities.  He said he feels comfortable making suggestions to Rizzo about the type of players he'd like in the lineup, but it's clear from his first home press conference that Johnson will be a straight shooter and knows how he wants to run this team.