- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2013

VIERA, Fla. — Davey Johnson says he’s going to retire when the Washington Nationals’ 2013 season comes to an end. He says he’s going to ride off into the sunset with what he hopes is a new World Series ring to spend his days with his wife, Susan, doing the things she puts on his “honey-do” list and enjoying a life that doesn’t involve the rigorous schedule of managing a Major League Baseball team.

Depending on which of his players you ask, there are varying degrees of belief in that proclamation. As shortstop Ian Desmond put it Wednesday, “It’s hard to walk away from baseball, as you can see, especially for him. He loves it just as much as anybody else.”

But as Johnson met the media for the first time, at the start of what he at least says will be his final camp, it was clear he’s in no rush to change a thing.

“He’s 70, huh?” reliever Drew Storen said of the man who’s been wearing a navy blue USA Baseball tracksuit around the complex the past few days, talking with his players, cracking jokes and telling tales of his January vacation to Africa between meetings with his coaches.

“I feel like 70 is just a number for him,” Storen said. “He’s ripe. He can cut it up with the best of them.”

In the dugout at Space Coast Stadium on Wednesday, Johnson looked tanned, relaxed and ready to begin anew with the team he says has the capability to be the best one he’s ever managed. The fact that this is his last spring in this position was paid little mind.

“Heck, I thought last year was going to be my last year,” he said.

Johnson spent the 20-minute session reminding everyone that neither age nor job status has any effect on the way he goes about his business. He brought his usual bravado — explaining that “if you don’t think you’re going to win, you’ve got no chance” — and his usual jokes about the Internet age.

“In this day and time, you can’t hardly do anything without somebody tweeting you or Facebooking you or something,” Johnson said. “It’s just too complicated. Fact is, I’m going to change my email this year because I’m getting too many unwanted emails. Spam. I’ve got my thing set on the highest spam filter and it still gets through.

“I’m not even going to tell you, but you can guess at my age what I might be getting.”

He told stories of all the animals he found himself within 10 feet of on his safari to South Africa with his wife in mid-January, noting several times how thankful he was that he didn’t get eaten by a lion or trampled by a bull elephant.

On Thursday, Johnson will take his pitchers and catchers to the minor league fields for the spring’s first official workout. He’ll watch his horses, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren, line up on bullpen mounds and see just where each of his prized starters are at in their progress. He’ll begin to familiarize himself with his new closer, Rafael Soriano, and the type of workload he’s comfortable carrying.

He hasn’t spent much time thinking about the stunning way his team’s 2012 season abruptly ended, instead choosing to look toward a future that is rife with possibilities — even if he’ll never acknowledge planning any further than “today with an eye on tomorrow,” as his saying goes.

That won’t stop him from displaying his excitement for a year he said will be one of his “more challenging,” as he juggles all the talent provided him.

“We ain’t done nothing yet,” he said. “We have a chance, a better chance maybe than in past years because a young ballclub has kind of grown up, had some experience here. Experience to me is the key. Being there before in a playoff situation, winning your division, that’s experience you can’t replace. That’s something that leaves a taste in your mouth to do better.

“I compare this team to, and it’s been a lot better than, the team I had in New York,” Johnson continued, referring to the Mets team he took over in 1984. “And we won more than 90 games my first year, then 98, then 108. This club jumped 18 wins. This club was a lot younger. The leap was great, but it was a lot of guys contributing, not just one or two rookies, to overcome the injuries we had. I have a lot of confidence in this upcoming season, and I know that other room has as much, if not more.”