The Nationals are off to a 2-0 start with some important solo homers and quality pitching.
But manager Davey Johnson also gives a lot of the credit for the first two wins to improved defense. Johnson said he notices a big difference because Ryan Zimmerman’s surgically repaired shoulder has responded well.
“No question about it,” Johnson said. “It is kind of hard to improve on the infield. But the infield is improved because Zimm is healthier over there. You guys probably haven’t noticed but his shoulder is better he plays deeper.”
That gives him more time to make a play and still get the runner out.
“It is noticeable to me. I think it gives you maybe another yard of range,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Zimmerman’s improved range was the difference in making the diving play early on opening day behind Stephen Strasburg to save a base hit.
And with the shoulder feeling better, Zimmerman’s strength is also returning.
“No doubt,” Johnson said. “If you see him throwing even in the cold weather the other day, he was back to throwing 150 feet.”
In the outfield, Johnson likes the combination of Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth because they can all cover a lot of ground and do it quickly.
“It is awfully good,” Johnson said. “You swap out Michael Morse for Span. You have basically three centerfielders out there that can play center out in the outfield. It is a little bit better (than) having a first baseman in left.”
JBecause Span can do so much in center field, it allows Harper and Werth to hug the line a bit more to take away extra-base hit possibilities. Johnson said that Werth is also calling defensive plays from his spot in right.
“Jayson is going to be directing traffic,” Johnson said. “He was all spring. A fly ball would be hit to left and I would hear him yell, ‘Back!’. He is pretty much in the ball game.”