Words of wisdom from Hall of Famer helped Davey Johnson mold his pitchers of today

“Nats Xtra” analyst Ray Knight talked on air last week about the Nationals’ starting pitching staff in 2012 and how they could have at least three starters with the possibility of throwing 200 or more innings this season.

Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson add up to a trio that could combine for well over 600 innings this campaign, something that has recently been unheard of from the Nationals. After all, southpaw John Lannan was the best last year, reaching 184 2/3 innings.

Not only do the Nationals have guys that can eat up innings, but with Stephen Strasburg and even Ross Detwiler added to that mix, they also have guys that can bring the heat.

Manager Davey Johnson said he was worried these power pitchers might be slow out of spring training, because that is what sometimes happens with guys that throw so hard. But that tendency didn’t show up with this group.

“I really like the rotation and how it stacks up,” Johnson said. “I like what I am seeing. There is that little bit of competition in the rotation that comes with the start of the season. Yesterday, Gio (Gonzalez) certainly held up his end after a rugged first start. So, I think the bar is set pretty high.”

Johnson said he gained considerable knowledge about what makes a great pitcher when he got a chance to talk to a legendary Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career when Johnson was still a young ballplayer.

“I faced a very old pitcher and a very talented pitcher in Satchel Paige,” Johnson said. “He pitched for Kansas City when I was a youngster. Me being inquisitive, I came up to him after the game and I said, ‘Satch, what is your best pitch? You throw hard, you have all these breaking balls, what is your best pitch?’

He said, ‘It’s my B pitch.’ I said, ‘B pitch? What the heck is a B pitch? He said, ‘My B pitch. It be where I want it to be.’ “

Johnson said in this day and age some pitchers measure how good they are by artificial means, and not what really gets a hitter out.

“The one thing I don’t like is the radar gun,” Johnson said. “I don’t like pitchers looking at it and thinking that is what is making them successful. I like the B pitch. Be where I want it to be.”

And this is what makes him excited about the possibility of the Nationals staff this season.

“I separate pitchers from throwers,” Johnson continued. “When I look at our staff, we got some hard throwing pitchers, that can locate and that is going to be their success.”

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