Johnson discusses Nats’ 5-3 loss in spring opener

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - If Stephen Strasburg wasn’t going to harp on the negatives from his spring opener, manager Davey Johnson sure wasn’t.

The Nationals skipper knew that Strasburg would be throwing mostly fastballs, and he knew that Mets hitters would be looking to tee off. This early in spring, Johnson was mainly happy that Strasburg made it through his two innings and was able to get his full work in.

“I thought he threw the ball all right,” Johnson said. “He kind of jumped a little bit early and settled down. I hate to see him throw that many pitches in the first inning, but (he’s a) big, strong guy.

“He knows to just work on his location, build his arm up. I’m not worried about him at all. He threw the ball good.”

Bryce Harper might end up making SportsCenter’s “Top-10 Plays” with his off-the-glove, off-the-midsection, into-the-glove catch in the second inning.

“It’s always something with him,” Johnson said.

The ball was tailing away from Harper on that play, something Johnson said the 20-year-old will have to get used to playing in left field now. That said, Johnson doesn’t believe Harper will need much of an acclimation period in left, seeing as how he’s gotten time there in the past.

Chris Snyder got the start today behind the plate, and while the veteran catcher is a longshot to make the team, he came out of the gates quickly today.

Not known for his bat, Snyder went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run in the second inning and a hard-hit single to center in the fourth.

“It’s great. I was happy for him,” Johnson said. “He was good back there and swung the bat good. That’s been his (reputation) - good catch, no hit. Fun to see him smoke the ball, hit the ball on the nose a couple times. I took out a third of my offense when I took him out.”

Cole Kimball threw a scoreless eighth inning for the Nats, working around a one-out walk by getting a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Kimball only hit 91 mph on the stadium gun, but said afterwards that he feels he has another gear or two that he didn’t use today. The 27-year-old denied feeling any extra emotion being back on the mound after a lengthy rehab from shoulder surgery, but Johnson was happy to see Kimball back in action.

“A lot of people didn’t think he’d be throwing. He only threw for about a half-hour down there trying to get ready,” Johnson said sarcastically. “But I thought everybody threw the ball good.”

Bill Bray had a bit of a rough sixth inning, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits. Bray has been tinkering with his mechanics and trying to find an arm slot, which Johnson said he still was searching for today.

“He threw the ball all right,” Johnson said. “(His throwing motion’s) still a little not what it was. He still kind of gets back up (behind the ear). But he threw the ball OK.”

All in all, Johnson was pleased with what he saw at Tradition Field today. He got to get a firsthand look at a bunch of his new players, and was back in the dugout after a long offseason.

“This is the time a lot of guys play,” Johnson said. “It’s fun for me seeing the guys out there.”

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