Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson was feeling much better on Saturday after retreating to the clubhouse in the fourth inning of the Nationals’ loss to the Mets on Friday feeling lightheaded and dehydrated. Johnson got some fluids in him and a good night’s sleep and was ready to go on Saturday.
“I was under the weather so I pinch hit for myself,” Johnson said. “Went in, laid down and rested up. They were going to give me some fluids but I’m too old. They couldn’t even find my veins. I gave them two tries and said that’s it. I said ‘I’ll try it another way: just bring me some water.’ But after a good night’s sleep I feel great.”
He was also ready to weigh in on one of the main topics to come out of Friday night’s game, regarding Bryce Harper not running at his usual breakneck pace to first base on a ground out to second in the eighth inning. It just so happened that Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy bobbled the ball, but made the final out to kill the Nationals’ rally. The play became a focal point, particularly after bench coach Randy Knorr discussed the notion of Harper’s hustle deserting him occasionally.
Johnson said he hasn’t “seen a lot of (that). I’ve seen a little of (that).” And there was at least one other occasion where he addressed it with Harper in the dugout.
But he always wonders how much of it is a potential issue with his mentality, and how much of it is a product of Harper’s ongoing issues in his left knee. Harper, who built so much of his reputation on how hard he plays the game, missed 31 games earlier this season with bursitis in his knee. And there was acknowledgement upon his return that he likely would have to deal with it throughout the year if it flared up.
“My opinion is you take nothing for granted,” Johnson said. “Hit a ground ball? Guy could boot it. You run. Any time you quit going hard, it’s a losing attitude. With him, I’m in-between knowing if he’s babying his knee, because he’s usually 100 percent in. So I’ll talk to him.”
“I think (the knee) is still an issue. I think it’s probably there. He can probably play with it, but if he head-first slides or dives in the outfield, it’s probably going to flare up. Hopefully he’ll get through the season.”
The possibility remains, as it did in June, that Harper will require some sort of surgical procedure on the knee this offseason, even if it is simply to remove the bursa sacs to solve the problem once and for all. Johnson called it a “definite option,” on Saturday, but said the decision on whether it is necessary when the season is over will be made by Harper and Nationals medical director Wiemi Douoguih.
As for the rest of Harper’s at-bat in the eighth inning on Friday, Johnson agreed with Knorr’s decision to give Harper the option to swing 3-0, and he had no problem with Harper doing it.
The Nationals have been one of the league’s most aggressive teams when it comes to swinging 3-0, but it’s partly by design. Johnson encourages it, wanting his hitters to have an aggressive mentality in mind when they’re at the plate.
Harper fouled the pitch off, and it was the 3-1 pitch he ground to second base, but Johnson took no issue with the decision to swing 3-0 against lefty Scott Rice. It is all part of Harper’s ongoing education as a player who is still just 20 years old. He is hitting left-handed pitching at a .190 clip this season.
“I like swinging 3-0,” Johnson said. “You got the pitcher in a big jam. You were selective enough to get him there. looked to me like he got a pretty good pitch down the middle. Just missed it.
“He’s got to get to the point where he can handle left-handed pitching. This is kind of a learning curve for him. I’ve given 3-0 to some of our veterans and they’ve been worse than, swung at balls neck-high they’re so anxious. I do believe it helps us think more aggressively.”
– Steve Lombardozzi was starting at second base for the Nationals on Saturday and Johnson said that some of his coaches mention every now and again to him just how many more games Anthony Rendon has played this season than ever before in his life.
Rendon has entrenched himself as the Nationals’ starting second baseman this season, but he’s also played 114 games between the major and minor leagues. He played in only 43 during the 2012 regular season, his first professional year, but added 77 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.
Johnson indicated that he will occasionally heed his coaches advice and give Rendon a day here or there, as he has done often recently. After Lombardozzi hit the first pinch-hit home run of his career on Friday night, Johnson also added that Lombardozzi’s “on a power surge,” so he had to play him.