ANAHEIM, Calif. — On his second day as the Nationals manager, Davey Johnson made a few things clear about the way he puts together the lineup. He prefers consistency, he’s not a huge fan of platoons and he does not like the idea of hitting the pitcher eighth.
The Nationals face three straight right-handed starters in Anaheim and they are scheduled to face two more this weekend when the Pirates visit D.C. so there’s a good chance the lineup that they run out today (and yesterday) will be the same one they use tomorrow, and Friday.
“If it’s good enough for one right-hander, it’s good enough for another right-hander,” Johnson said. “I don’t want them to think that just because you lose the ballgame that I didn’t have any faith in that lineup. I had a lot of reasons for putting that lineup together and, you know, when I put a lineup together tomorrow there may be other reasons.”
Wednesday’s getaway day lineup could be different because, with the off-day on Thursday, Johnson would get an opportunity to give some guys who are little banged up two full days of rest, like former manager Jim Riggleman had done on a few occasions with shortstop Ian Desmond.
But there are other reasons Johnson may make a change. Asked if he’d prefer to stay away from platoons he said “I really do,” and he noted that he’d like to refrain from using center fielder Roger Bernadina in that way, despite his .217 average this season against left-handed pitching. If the team faced a left-hander, Johnson said he hadn’t thought much about who would leadoff just yet but sees Bernadina as a player who could hit against both.
He also said there are “some things that I’m doing with the lineup right now that I don’t like,” highlighting the need to perhaps pinch hit for his cleanup hitter, Laynce Nix, against left-handed pitching late in games. Nix has a career .183 average against left-handed pitching and his slugging percentage this season is over .300 points lower against left-handed pitchers than it is against righties. To this point, while Nix has dealt with a few nagging injuries, the time off against left-handers has helped him but he has said that he wants, and feels confident in, at-bats against lefties just as much as he does righties.
“He hasn’t had a lot of regular playing time against (left-handers) and his background is not hitting left-handers that well,” Johnson said, using that situation as one example of things he may tinker with. “I don’t really like that situation, know what I mean? But it’s early. We’ll figure it out.”
As for hitting the pitcher eighth, which Riggleman had done for the final 11 games of his tenure (and before the Nationals began Interleague play in American League ballparks) Johnson is not a fan.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I never used it and I’m not saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s going to be kind of hard to teach that one to me.”