Davey Johnson is walking around with some pep in his step today.
Part of that is because his team snapped a four-game losing skid last night, and did so in dominating fashion.
Another part of it is that Johnson learned that former Dodgers and Cardinals GM Branch Rickey - a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and famously known for being the guy to sign Jackie Robinson - liked Johnson when he was a prospect in the Orioles organization.
As you can see in this letter found in the Library in Congress (and put online by Twitter user bettilupi), Rickey recommended to the Cardinals’ personnel guys that they make sure to include Johnson in any trade that they might make with the Orioles. Johnson was told about the letter earlier today.
“I’m in high cotton,” Johnson gleefully said.
Johnson’s lineup from 1-8 today is exactly the same as it was last night, with the Nationals skipper looking to build off the big offensive performance his team put up in its 8-1 win over the Reds in the series opener.
That means that top prospect Anthony Rendon is out of the Nats’ lineup for the second straight day. Johnson and GM Mike Rizzo have both said that they want Rendon getting in a lineup - any lineup - on a consistent basis, giving the 2011 first-round pick as much playing time as possible.
“He’s going to play every day somewhere,” Rizzo said yesterday. “If he’s here in the big leagues, he’s going to play every day in the big leagues.”
The priority for now, however, is putting together a lineup that will give the Nats the best chance to win. And Johnson feels that his best lineup for right now is to have Steve Lombardozzi playing third base and hitting second. Lombardozzi went 0-for-5 in the No. 2 spot last night, but is still batting .294 on the season and has a .314 on-base percentage.
“I really like Anthony. Anthony knows that,” Johnson said. “Lombo’s been playing good. It’s a little more difficult when I’m looking for somebody in the lineup to help set the table and (Rendon’s) not in that category. Nothing against his ability, but I’m trying to create a lineup that can kind of feed off itself. I’m going day-by-day.”
There’s also the aspect of not messing with a good thing. The Nats scored eight runs yesterday, twice as many as they had in their previous four games combined, and banged out five extra-base hits.
“I don’t like to change a winner,” Johnson said. “Nothing against Anthony Rendon. He’s a heck of a player. He’s going to have a heck of a career. But we’re in here now, and I’m worried about 25 guys.”
It’s important to point out, I think, that while Rendon is viewed incredibly highly within the organization and is thought to be close to big league ready, he still has very little professional experience.
Rendon has just 196 pro at-bats under his belt, including the 15 he’s accumulated here at the big league level. Compare that to Bryce Harper, who had 461 minor league at-bats before getting the call to the majors last year, and you can see how important it is for Rendon to play somewhere and see more pro pitching.
For now, Rendon will get another night on the bench, and because he’s not used to pinch-hitting, Johnson would be more likely to call upon one of his other non-starters in the late innings tonight.