NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson held his press conference with reporters at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel Tuesday afternoon, and the gregarious manager was in fine form discussing his team and where he sees them going in 2013.
Johnson, who goes about his business on a daily basis with a fairly cocksure nature, didn’t shy away from letting everyone know what he thinks about the talent assembled for the 2013 Nationals.
“World Series or bust,” he said. “That’s probably the slogan this year. But I’m comfortable with that.”
The 2012 National League Manager of the Year is recovering from Lasik surgery in his left eye, but otherwise he had nothing but positives to discuss.
“If we’re not the favorite this year, I’m going to be embarrassed with all you (media) that didn’t pick us,” Johnson said. “My guys were totally confident last year. We knew going into the year, if we just did the things we were capable of doing, we’d be hard to beat. Even with all the injuries we had, I was very proud of the organization because the young guys had a great opportunity, and they took advantage of it and did great.
“Actually, from a managing standpoint, I look at the coming year (as more difficult). “We’ve got guys that now are going to make it more difficult for me because they’ve earned the right to play more, and that’s a good problem to have. But this is one of the best ball clubs I’ve ever had to manage.”
Here are a few other notes and rumblings from the day:
– Johnson left the door open for the Nationals to bring back veteran utility man Mark DeRosa, a player for whom he has a great affinity. DeRosa is a well-respected, well-liked player and he’d no doubt be a valuable addition to the clubhouse. But the Nationals’ bench might be too full to accommodate him with Chad Tracy, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina and whichever catcher is not starting that night already on it.
“We have to have somebody doing karaoke in the clubhouse,” Johnson quipped of DeRosa.
“I’ve talked to him over the winter, and it just depends on what happens the next few days or months here,” he added more seriously. “He didn’t put up the numbers, but pretty good numbers pinch‑hitting and pretty good stabling influence on my young guys. Depending what we do, I still wouldn’t mind having him on the bench. He’s a very capable defender. It was an off year a little bit offensively, but he got some big hits for us.
“But his big influence was he was kind of a bridge between the (great players I played with like the) Henry Aarons and the Sandy Koufaxs to the (ones he played with like) Chipper Jones and those guys. So I could give him my philosophy from those guys, and he’d pass it on from Chipper and Pujols to the younger guys. He was a great influence.”
For what it’s worth, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he has not had any contact with DeRosa or his representatives, but he’d be open to talking about it.
“We’ll keep an open mind,” he said. “If it’s advantageous to the club and it makes us a better team, we certainly will think about it. But we’ve got a pretty good bench right now, as is.”
– Johnson also said he’d most likely consider Kurt Suzuki his No. 1 catcher at the start of the season, just so the team can be sure that Wilson Ramos is fully healthy and recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
“It depends on his mobility and what the doctors say,” Johnson said of Ramos. “He had two drastic knee surgeries. He really looked good to me with us in the playoffs, and he’s driven. He’s got a lot of potential offensively and defensively. We have two great No.1 catchers.”
Ramos’ rehab is on track, but the Nationals were thrilled with Suzuki after they acquired him last August so they really view it as having two good options..
“We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Johnson said, asked what he would do if both are entirely healthy. “A guy’s going real good, stay a little longer. He cools off, I’ll go with the other guy. But I’m very comfortable with both of them. I think they handle pitching staffs great, blocking and throwing are outstanding.”
– There’s been plenty of speculation that the Nationals could look to trade Michael Morse, particularly if they re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche. Rizzo has said that the team is fielding a lot of calls on Morse.
One possibility that was reported by several outlets on Tuesday was their neighbors up the Beltway in Baltimore. For what it’s worth, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette told reporters Tuesday that he’d have no issues dealing with the Nationals and one person familiar with the situation between the two owners said if the deal was right their own feelings for one another likely wouldn’t derail it.
“I can see the advantage of trading for a player that’s already established in your market, that a lot of your fans are familiar with,” Duquette said. “So I would see that as an opportunity.”
– The Nationals will more than likely sit out the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. They hardly have room on their 40-man roster to take a flyer on someone, let alone on the 25-man roster. But one name to keep in mind that they could lose from their own organization is right-hander Rob Wort. Wort spent the 2012 season with Single-A Potomac and has never pitched above that level before, but one American League scout figured he possessed enough raw talent to be stashed in the bullpen of a non-contending team for a season.
Wort had a 2.38 ERA in 56 2/3 innings as a reliever for Potomac in 2012.