Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Johnson grapples with lineup

US Presswire photo
Tyler Moore will make his second career start tonight in left field.
PITTSBURGH -- When he arrived in Viera, Fla., for spring training, Davey Johnson had a clear idea what his starting lineup would look like, and had no reason to believe it would change on a daily basis.

But then various members of the Nationals roster started dropping like flies, and so the veteran manager found himself early this morning scribbling out various combinations that might provide some spark to his struggling offense.

"Believe me, I had four or five lineups I was going through last night at 1:30 in the morning," he said. "And I'm taking any kind of input, even from writers. I'm all for it."

Johnson was kidding about taking advice from writers (we hope) but he did proceed to detail the challenges of putting together a starting lineup that takes all sorts of things into consideration: What gives his team its best chance to win that day, what's best in the long-term, what's best for slumping players, what's best for untested rookies.

Above all else, Johnson tries to abide by this mantra: Don't put players in a position where they fear the result of every single at-bat could affect their status.

"One thing you don't want to do is audition players," the manager said. "You have a good game? I'll hit you fifth. You have a bad game? I'll hit you ninth. I'm not an audition manager. I judge talent, and I put them where I think they should be, and I expect them to perform at that level."

That line of reasoning explains in part why a struggling player like Danny Espinosa (who enters tonight's game with a .186 average, two RBI and an NL-leading 37 strikeouts) remains in the heart of the Nationals' lineup, batting sixth tonight against the Pirates.

Johnson did admit concern about Espinosa, particularly his recent penchant to swing at breaking balls well out of the strike zone. But he also continues to preach the importance of showing confidence in young players still trying to establish themselves in the big leagues.

"I've had a lot of conversations with Danny," Johnson said. "I think he's an unbelievable talent, and if anybody could break one of my records, I said he'd be one of them. And I've explained I have higher expectations of you than probably you do. And he said: 'No, that's not true.' So I know he has the confidence. I know he has the ability. It's really just a matter of time."

Johnson did make one concession tonight, giving rookie Tyler Moore only his second chance to start in the nine games since the first baseman/outfielder was promoted from Class AAA Syracuse.

Moore, who over the last two-plus seasons hit 69 home runs in the minors, started in left field for his big-league debut April 29 in Los Angeles but since then has only come off the bench as a sporadic pinch-hitter or late replacement at first base.

How difficult has that been for a player used to starting on a nightly basis?

"I wouldn't say difficult," Moore said. "It's been a blast being up here. I definitely understand what my role is and what Davey wants to do. And the guys who have been playing have been doing great for us. It's definitely an adjustment, but I see why I'm sitting on the bench."

And where will Moore be tomorrow? With right-hander Kevin Correia starting for the Pirates, will he be back on the bench with Roger Bernadina in left field?

"The proof will be in the pudding," Johnson said. "I'm waiting for two or three of guys to play up to their capabilities. Obviously Espinosa, Bernadina, [Xavier] Nady. And Tyler Moore is kind of down on the list. These guys need to stand up. And if Tyler has a pretty good game, we'll take it from there."


MicheleS said...

So where can we email our line ups to Davey?

sm13 said...

It's really getting painful to watch Roger out there. He just has never grown into a legit major leaguer. You keep hoping he'll seize one of the many opportunities he's been given, but he always disappoints. It would make Davey's job easier if Roger would step it up, but it doesn't seem like that's ever going to happen.

NatsNut said...

Davey, you know, that's kind of auditioning.

"...And Tyler Moore is kind of down on the list. These guys need to stand up. And if Tyler has a pretty good game, we'll take it from there."

Jim Webster said...

Heaven help us if he considers lineup suggestions from us commenters on Nats Insider.

Jim Webster said...

Heaven help us if he considers lineup suggestions from us commenters on Nats Insider.

Gonat said...

sm13, why the Bernadina hatred? His last start before last night was April 25 and before that was April 19.

You can't expect any more than what you got. His .308 OBP he had before last night was decent and he makes things happen.

sm13 said...

I understand that Roger had more than his share of highlight reel plays - I've been at Nats Park for several of them and was there when he shatteted his ankle. I like the guy and have always hoped he would prove that he's more than a AAAA player. Over the past 3 years, he has been given so many chances and has never proven that he can hit consistently in the major leagues. That's not hate, it is, unfortunately, reality.

sm13 said...

I would say that he's never earned the consistent playing time. I just want to be clear, I'm not rooting against Roger, I would be thrilled if he lived up to his potential

rogieshan said...

I'm wondering now if it isn't a calculated move on Johnson's part to stick with Espinosa, knowing full well that the latter has already reached a critical point in his development where he will either turn the corner and have a successful career, or be a complete bust and never see another day as a regular.

Meanwhile, Bernadina has clearly maxed out and reached his ceiling.

sm13 said...

Rizzo and Davey both made strong comments supporting Danny today. I hope the show of confidence helps him get on track. We need his power bat badly.

NatsFanJim said...

MicheleS: Please -- email your lineup suggestions to Davey. Lord knows he needs the help.

Can you do something with Espi -- like sit him?
Can you do something with Ramos -- like play Jesus the Great in his place?

NatsFanJim said...

Im about risk poster ire, but I have to air it out.

I've always been a Davey fan -- but ...

with the lineups that he's putting out?

Davey is a complete IDIOT (or senile).

His lineups are silly, his game stategy is -- well -- absent: no bunting, no steals, no wheel plays, Nada.

Hell, it took a 19 year old rookie to steal home -- not Grandpa Davey.

ehay2k said...

Take the hitting coach out of the equation and the lineup issues are simplified. With the possible exception of Zimm, there is not ONE Nat that can hit a curveball. Most can't even recognize one. It is absolutely pitiful.

That is why A.J Burnett, W. Rodriguez, B. Arroyo, and every other soft tosser gets career strikeouts against us.

I'm sure Eckstein is in line for sainthood. But he sure isn't going to the hitting coaches' HoF.

Section 222 said...

He's never gotten consistent time since the ankle injury.

Really? Bernadina started 111 games in 2011 and 71 last year. He's had a lot of chances to get regular at bats. I like him too. I want him to be a good hitter. Unfortunately, he just isn't. You can't blame that on Riggleman or Davey.

ehay2k said...

They are walking LaRoche, putting winning run on base, to get to Bernadina. That says a lot. Hope the shark can hit it.

sm13 said...

Thanks for digging up the numbers, 222. He has had the opportunities. Let's see if he can deliver tonight.

ehay2k said...

Good thing I am not the GM, because I'd be saying it's time to cut the bottom 5%. This is MLB, not a training academy. Bernie and Nady can go.

Holden Baroque said...

It's not about who goes, it's who you replace them with. Anybody can fire people.

Adam said...

I have to say I agree with 222 and sm13 on Bernadina...I he's had a plethora of opportunities because of the injuries over the last two years. To say that Riggleman inhibited his development is horse heap. How many starts did he have under Rigglemen alone...I'd bet quite a few.

Shell said...

if you're reading this Davey:
Bernadina/Moore (NEVER AGAIN NADY!!!)

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