- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

ATLANTA — The Washington Nationals have hired former major league manager Davey Johnson as a special consultant to general manager Jim Bowden, a planned temporary addition to the front office but one already fueling speculation that Johnson eventually could become the team’s manager.

Bowden stressed that a managerial change is not in the works and expressed support for Frank Robinson, currently in his fifth season with the franchise. According to Bowden, Johnson, 63, will help the club evaluate minor leaguers who could be trade bait approaching baseball’s July 31 deadline.

“He’s here for the short-term to help us,” Bowden said. “And who knows after that? … There’s no long-term commitment here, it’s a short-term commitment. We’re committed through July 31, and then we’ll take it from there.”

Bowden, whose own future remains uncertain, received permission from both current club president Tony Tavares and incoming president Stan Kasten to hire Johnson. He insisted Johnson was not brought in to take over for Robinson.

“No, Frank Robinson is the manager,” Bowden said. “[Johnson] is not going to manage the Washington Nationals. So nobody should read into this that that’s the case. Just like no one should read into it that the general manager has any more security. Don’t read into this, except for this is a good opportunity to bring in a good baseball mind to help us during this time period.”

Neither Bowden nor Kasten has formally spoken to Robinson, 70, about his job status. In fact, Bowden did not inform Robinson about Johnson’s hiring yesterday. The manager learned of it from a reporter a few hours before last night’s game against the Atlanta Braves. He declined to comment.

Johnson, who did not return messages, has a long history of success in 14 years as a major league manager, posting a 1,148-888 record with the New York Mets (1984-90), Cincinnati Reds (1993-95), Baltimore Orioles (1996-97) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2000).

Bowden was Johnson’s GM in Cincinnati, where the two won a division title in 1995, and has often spoken of him glowingly. Johnson has not worked in the major leagues in six years but has spent considerable time coaching Team USA in international competition, including this spring’s World Baseball Classic.

His knowledge of top minor leaguers played a key role in Bowden’s decision to hire him.

“A lot of the prospects that we’re going to have him go scout for us, he’s already been looking at and already watching because he’s been in the loop,” Bowden said. “He’s been very active the last couple of years. He has not been out of baseball.”

Johnson battled health problems in recent years — he nearly died in 2004 while suffering from a mysterious stomach ailment that turned out to be a year-long ruptured appendix — but he showed up at a Nationals-Orioles game this spring and pronounced himself in good shape.

Staff writer Ken Wright contributed to this article from Washington.

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