VIERA, Fla. - Nationals manager Davey Johnson has run enough spring trainings to be able to appreciate both the excitement that accompanies the first day of full-squad workouts and the need to wisely use the time available during spring to learn as much as he can about his players, both old and new.
The newcomers got the bulk of Johnson’s attention Saturday, when the Nationals held their first full-squad workout. While most of his regulars were grouped together at one field, Johnson hung out with a collection of new arrivals, rookies and guys he hasn’t seen as much of in person.
“I thought it was great, just the way I wanted it to go,” he said afterward. “I got a good look at some of the guys I wasn’t that familiar with. I like the way we went about our business on both fields during the fundamentals and all the drills. It was crisp, put a lot in it and we looked good.”
Johnson’s already well acquainted with guys like Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and even Bryce Harper, of whom Johnson said, “He was not on my priority list today.” More important Saturday was getting to know new Triple-A manager Tony Beasley, with whom Johnson will have to work closely in terms of player development, and making sure he and Beasley were on the same page as far as how certain players were going to be used this spring.
“Some of the guys will be with (Beasley) and I’d like to know what he’s thinking,” Johnson said. “I rearranged some of the positions I want them to work on this spring and then also had conversations with the general manager and farm director about how I was positioning hte players and how I want to use them.”
For example, Johnson wants rookie Anthony Rendon only used at shortstop and third base during drills emphasizing fundamentals, while slugging first base prospect Tyler Moore will get reps at third base, too. Moore had been slated to play some outfield this spring, as he’d done in fall instructional league, but Johnson thinks he needs to make some throws from third baseto improve his ability to read pitches and improve his footwork.
Two non-rosterinfielders who will likely play at Triple-A, Jarrett Hoffpauir and Andres Blanco, will work exclusively at second and short, while veteran Mark Teahen will man only the corner infield positions. Carlos Rivero, a farmhand listed as a third baseman on the spring roster, is more of a shortstop and will take grounders there.
“I want them to understand what I was thinking about where I would probably play them in some of the games,” Johnson said. “So I want them to concentrate (on those positions) in the drills.”
While Johnson stayed at Field 4, bench coach Randy Knorr and hitting coach Rick Eckstein oversaw the activity on Field 1, where most of the veterans worked out.
“From what I saw on Field 4, and the report I got from Rick on Field 1, and Randy, is that guys are more along than (usual), swinging the bats really naturally - I mean for day one,” Johnson said. “I was pleased to hear that.”