DALLAS — Throughout the week at the winter meetings, each major league manager will spend some time meeting with reporters. For Nationals manager Davey Johnson that time was at 5 p.m. (CT) today and he riffed on a number of topics.
We already talked about the fact that Johnson is open to letting Bryce Harper compete for a major league job this spring.
Here’s what else Johnson had to say:
— From what he’s heard, Adam LaRoche is 100 percent healthy right now and he expects that to remain the case as the Nationals open spring training in February. LaRoche is expected to be the team’s first baseman with Michael Morse playing left field and the hope is that he’ll be fully recovered from the labrum tear in his left shoulder that cost him the majority of the 2011 season.
That being said, Johnson said that perhaps the biggest blow to the Nationals offseason plans came when first baseman Chris Marrero tore his hamstring playing in the Dominican Winter League. Marrero is expected to be out until about the All-Star break, Johnson said, and his loss costs the Nationals a right-handed bat off the bench. Johnson also said he was “a little upset” that Laynce Nix won’t be returning to the Nationals, instead signing a two-year deal with Philadelphia.
“The bigger blow was Marrero,” Johnson said. “Because Marrero gives us insurance with LaRoche. Hopefully Adam is going to be 100 percent recovered. But also, while he’s recovered I could have a right-handed platoon, too, over there. His injury kind of left us another man short, as far as I’m concerned.”
— Which led Johnson to confirming the reports from FoxSports.com that Johnson had spoken with free agent utility man Mark DeRosa, who spent much of the past few seasons dealing with a significant tendon issue in his left wrist. Johnson managed DeRosa on Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in 2009.
“I looked at his last two years and they weren’t too stellar,” Johnson said. “But (he’s a) really quality guy. I really like him. If he’s healthy, he fits the role about as good as you can get.”
DeRosa can play almost anywhere on the field including all infield and outfield spots.
— Johnson was asked about Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and he noted that he “has come up” in the Nationals meetings.
— In order for the Nationals to carry infielder Steve Lombardozzi on the roster as a bench player, Johnson said, they’d have to know they’d be able to get him a lot of playing time.
“When you carry a young player that has the talent that Lombardozzi does, I’d have to get him in a lot of games,” Johnson said. “I can do that if it’s just one young player. He can play probably any position in the infield and I could probably throw him in the outfield. I kind of looked at him as like when I had Ben Zobrist, same kind of guy — switch hitter, not a lot of pop, smart player, knows the game and can play just about anywhere.”
— Davey said he was comfortable with the pitching staff that he has now, noted that he’d prefer to see left-hander Ross Detwiler as a starter and not a long man but brought up the names of Tom Gorzelanny, Yunesky Maya and Craig Stammen as possible long relievers.
“You know, I really like my staff,” he said. “I like it as it is right now. Anytime you can improve, go for it, but I haven’t been pushing in that direction. Mike (Rizzo’s) a smart guy. I leave that up to him.”
— He feels the National League East and American League East are the two toughest divisions in MLB.
“I was hoping (the division) would stand pat,” Johnson said when asked about all the action NL East teams have had this offseason. “Some people going out there and trying to make a big splash. I like it. I think American League East, National League East are the two strongest divisions in baseball. I like going up against the best. It makes it more fun when you win.”