- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) - Davey Johnson is poised to take over as manager of the Washington Nationals, replacing Jim Riggleman, who abruptly resigned Thursday.

General manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday that Johnson has agreed to a deal, but there are a few technical items to figure out before the team can make an official announcement Sunday.

“It’s language and dotting the Is and crossing the Ts kind of stuff,” Rizzo said, without elaborating.

“There is no signed document yet,” he added. “So we want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row and everything is in place before we make any kind of announcement.”

Johnson, who has not managed in the majors since 2000, will join the team in Chicago on Sunday, fly with the Nationals to Los Angeles and take over Monday when they begin an interleague series against the Angels.

Interim manager John McLaren will run the team for Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox and will be reassigned within the organization, Rizzo said.

McLaren will assist Rizzo in scouting and other duties.

“Kind of a mutual decision,” Rizzo said. “I think he had allegiances to Jim Riggleman and had some thoughts about really wanting to get out of uniform and into trying something different.”

Johnson, who has been a senior advisor with the Nationals since 2009, is expected to manage the team for the remainder of 2011 and then be part of a search committee to select a manager for 2012. He could be a candidate for the position.

“We just want to see how the season progresses and want to evaluate after that,” Rizzo said. “Davey will be part of that evaluating process.”

A message was left on Johnson’s cell phone Saturday.

McLaren was Riggleman’s bench coach. Rizzo said the bench coach spot will likely be filled internally in the short-term.

After the Nationals lost to the White Sox 3-0 Saturday, dropping his record to 1-1 since replacing Riggleman, McLaren wouldn’t talk about his future, other than to say he would manage Sunday. He said he would meet with Johnson on Sunday and talk over things.

“People forget that when a manager leaves, it’s tough on the coaches, too,” Jerry Hairston, Jr. said. “They plan on being here all year. For Mac to be leaving is tough for a lot of us. He’s really a hard worker and a lot of guys love him here.”

The 68-year-old Johnson managed the Mets, Dodgers, Reds and Orioles over 14 seasons and compiled a 1148-888 record. His 1986 Mets team won the World Series and Johnson’s clubs finished first or second 11 times during his 14 previous seasons managing. He hasn’t managed since 2000 when he was with the Dodgers.

“He was the manager of the Orioles when I got drafted by them,” Hairston said.

“A lot of players loved playing for him. Very knowledgeable guy and won a World Series. Bottom line is he knows how to win. He definitely has credibility and he’s coming into a good situation. He knows us, too, being a special assistant. He knows this team.”

And even though he hasn’t managed in the majors for 11 years, Johnson did skipper Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the 2008 Olympic team and two summers ago managed amateur players in a Florida summer collegiate league.

“I think Davey is a great baseball guy,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said after Friday night’s 14-inning win over the Chicago White sox.

“A lot of us were around him in spring training,” he added. “We’ve got a good team here. We’ve got a great group of guys and whoever is the manager, whether it’s Davey or whoever it is, they’re going to be real happy with what we have here.”

Riggleman resigned abruptly Thursday after the Nationals beat Seattle, unhappy that Rizzo declined to have a conversation about picking up his option for 2012. Riggleman’s departure was stunning for its timing. The Nationals have won 12 of their last 14 games.

It’s the second time in a week a manager has resigned and been replaced by an older manager.

Florida skipper Edwin Rodriguez quit Sunday and was replaced by 80-year-old Jack McKeon.

“I think it will be a real smooth transition where he’s concerned. He’s very competent in uniform, and in the dugout and on the field,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Johnson.

“As much as I think of Jim Riggleman, I’m sure it’s not a situation that Davey wanted to see happen this way. But once you’ve kind of been in that fraternity a little bit, you don’t take any joy in somebody, the situation that came to be with Jim Riggleman,” Showalter said. “So, Davey will handle it in a classy way and get about the business that he was hired to do.”

Johnson played 13 major league seasons, was a four-time All-Star and was on two World Series winners with the Orioles in 1966 and 1970.

“I don’t know him that well,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “I know he was a great player and has been a successful manager.”

Third base coach Bo Porter said the tumultuous last three days are something that baseball players understand while making quick adjustments. He sees Johnson fitting right in.

“We’ve all been in baseball long enough and we’re mature enough that we all understand the different dynamics that come with it,” Porter said. “I’m not going to coach third base any differently because Davey Johnson is in the dugout and not Jim Riggleman.”

And he looks forward to working with Johnson.

“We had some good conversations in spring training. He was around a lot. I grew up in New Jersey when he was the manager of the Mets so I made it a point to sit down and talk to him quite a bit,” Porter said. “I think the transition will be pretty smooth.”


AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this story.

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