In just over 24 hours, we’ll know how many Nationals have been selected to the 2013 National League All-Star team. We might as well use this time to speculate and talk about the possibilities.
“Those guys, for sure,” Johnson said.
Zimmerman ranks first in the National League with 12 wins and has posted the sixth-best ERA in the majors at 2.46. Desmond ranks second among NL shortstops in home runs (15), RBIs (49) and OPS (.829).
Other Nats who could make the All-Star team are Bryce Harper (.267, 13 HRs, 24 RBIs), Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.24 ERA) and Rafael Soriano (22 saves, third-most in the NL).
On a broader note, the hot topic around the league right now is whether Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig deserves to end up in the All-Star Game. Puig has been off-the-charts good this season, hitting .430/.455/.719 with eight homers and 19 RBIs, but he’s only been in the big leagues a little more than a month and played in 29 games.
Some feel that Puig should be in the Midsummer Classic regardless of service time. Others feel he needs to prove himself over a longer stretch before getting a spot in the All-Star Game. Where does Johnson fall on the issue?
“I probably wouldn’t take him,” the Nats skipper said. “I haven’t seen him, either. I’ve seen his numbers, but just like ... Harp’s missed 31 days or something. It’s generally for who’s the best and has the best numbers. And it’s kind of hard for somebody who has one-third of the time to bump out somebody. I’m glad I don’t have to make those decisions.”
Johnson was again asked about Drew Storen today, this after Storen allowed two home runs and three runs overall in yesterday’s 8-5 Nats win. Storen has given up seven runs in his last two innings, boosting his ERA to 5.40.
“In ‘11, he really pitched,” Johnson said. “He has good stuff, but he pitched with it. And the times I’ve seen him, last year, coming back from the bone chips out of his elbow, he came back relying more on stuff. Tricking them. And he did that a little early this year and then he started really pitching, keeping the ball in spots. Whether running it in on them or keeping it down and away. You can hang a breaking ball and a changeup a lot easier than you can a fastball. And it’s all about location. And pitching.
“I never get upset when a guy gets beat with a fastball. You hang a changeup or hang a breaking ball, that’s ... when you’ve got a 95 mile-an-hour fastball? And a 93, 94 mile-an-hour sinker? He’s a smart kid. You’d think he’d figure that out.”
It seems to be a fine line for Storen in that regard. There have been times where Johnson has gotten on the reliever for just trying to overpower guys and not pitching enough. Then, there are other times when Johnson feels Storen is doing too much thinking and is getting too fancy instead of leaning on his fastball.
Storen can certainly be stubborn with his pitching approach at times, although he’s not alone in that regard. The Nats have a handful of pitchers who are rather set in their ways.
“He likes missing bats,” Johnson said. “But a good example, he had three balls on (Brewers outfielder Norichika) Aoki, he had to throw fastballs. And it was 1, 2, 3 and he was gone. But anyway, he’ll be fine.”
Storen’s fellow reliever, Ryan Mattheus, threw off a mound today for the first time since breaking his right hand punching a locker May 19. Mattheus threw about 25 pitches and looked good, according to Johnson.
“It’s kind of ironic: Here San Diego is (in town) and this is the club that made him break his hand,” Johnson quipped. “Now he’s back on the mound. I hope he doesn’t run in after and start hitting his locker again. But he threw great. Everybody was impressed that saw him throw.”
Mattheus will throw every-other day for the next 10 days or so, after which he could be ready to head out on a rehab assignment.