Stephen Strasburg threw a spring training-high 93 pitches tonight.
And that philosophy has won over multiple generations of ballplayers who laud the 70-year-old skipper for it.
"Not that you aren't going to play hard," Ryan Zimmerman said, "but I think you really want to do well for somebody that respects you and takes care of you and pretty much does everything he can to put you in a position to succeed."
Johnson does reserve the right to, as he puts it, "crack the whip" for one week near the end of spring training. And that week is about to arrive. Starting Monday, Johnson plans to make another round of roster cuts and then play all his regulars on a daily basis, having them go the full nine innings several times (including his catchers) as the final push to Opening Day arrives.
Sorry, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. You're going to have to make that 2-hour road trip to Jupiter on Wednesday.
"I'm cutting down, so there's no other alternative," Johnson said. "It's my time, boys. Party's over."
Consider tonight's game -- a 4-2 loss to the Astros -- a bit of a preview for what's to come. It featured both Ryan Zimmerman's spring debut in the field and Stephen Strasburg's longest start of the month, totaling 93 pitches.
Let's begin with Zimmerman, who had previously served as designated hitter in seven games but had yet to take his familiar position at third base since undergoing shoulder surgery after the 2012 season. After working slowly and extensively on his throwing mechanics and then building up arm strength, Zimmerman deemed himself ready to go tonight but admitted a little bit of unease as he emerged from the dugout.
"I was a little nervous the first inning, but everything was good," he said. "I think the throws in between innings got better each inning. The first one was a little shaky, not as good as I've been throwing. But as the innings went on, it got better. It was good to get out there in front of people and get back into a game."
Zimmerman wasn't tested much at all during his four innings of work. Only one ball was hit his way, but he handled it flawlessly, charging in on Carlos Corporan's second-inning grounder and then firing a perfect throw across his body to nab the Houston catcher.
That play helped ease everyone's nerves, as will each successive play over the final two weeks of camp.
"The more that I get, whether it's those or routine, I feel comfortable doing everything," Zimmerman said. "Now it's just a matter of getting the experience again of doing it in the game and at game speed, and we'll get plenty of time to do that in the next 10-12 days."
While Zimmerman and his lineup mates are preparing to ramp things up for the final push to Opening Day, Strasburg looks ready to take the mound at Nationals Park right now.
Making his fifth of seven Grapefruit League starts, the right-hander reached the sixth inning for the first time and uncorked 93 pitches, many of them fastballs registering in the high 90s. He struck out eight, allowed only one run -- a solo homer by Rick Ankiel, of all people -- and emerged feeling like there's little left to accomplish in Florida.
"When you get to this point, when you start to get close to 100 pitches, you're like, alright let's get the season going," he said. "But we still have a few more weeks, so I've just got to keep working, keep grinding."
Johnson might let Strasburg reach the 100-pitch mark during his next start, Friday against the Tigers, before bringing him back down in his final tune-up before Opening Day. After that, the veteran skipper has every intention of letting his young ace pitch deeper into games than he has at any previous point in his professional career.
"He's a regular guy," Johnson said of the post-shutdown Strasburg. "I'm going to treat him like [everybody] else. He's a big machine."
While he's cracking the whip on his position players and starting pitchers, Johnson plans to do the same with a few of his relievers, especially power pitchers who he believes need more work in the final weeks of the spring: Drew Storen and Henry Rodriguez.
Storen had another laborious appearance tonight, allowing three runs on four hits, and he's managed to toss a clean inning only twice in seven Grapefruit League appearances.
Those seven appearances, though, have been spread out, with Storen typically pitching every third day. Johnson wants that changed for all of his power relievers.
"Two days' rest between is not good for them," the manager said. "I want them throwing every other day, back-to-back, even two innings."
Johnson also wants Storen to worry less about approaching each hitter with a specific plan and just pitch.
"He's thinking too much," the manager said. "When you try to be that precise, I guess I want to call it, it's kind of paralysis by analysis. I want him to just trust his stuff and pitch. He's got great stuff, he knows how to pitch. Sometimes he just starts going out there and tries to overthrow the ball. But that's power pitchers. I've got two weeks [to get him ready]."
The countdown to Opening Day begins Monday.