Zuckerman: Nats, Phillies playing for pride
After the Nationals were swept by the Atlanta Braves, capped by a bullpen collapse in their 6-3 loss on Wednesday, several Washington players took on a bit of a different tone in describing the team’s current situation. Jayson Werth, in particular, spoke of a broader context, of how the losses are piling up and it may be time to starting thinking about the future.
Manager Davey Johnson was asked on Friday if there is a sense of resignation in the clubhouse, if the NL Wild Card and division are so out of reach it’s now time to look towards next season.
“There’s no resignation in that room over there, certainly not with me,” he said. “It’s probably more frustrating for me because I keep searching and thinking what I can do to make it easier for guys to perform. If I could figure out why guys, some veteran players are having subpar years for me, I would be all over it.”
He did, however, acknowledge the direction of the franchise as a whole, the central point Werth was trying to make.
“They’re still learning, there’s still room to grow,” Johnson said. “Everybody likes where the organization is at, likes the talent pool. There’s a small margin between winning and losing. We’ve had some problems in the bullpen, guys struggling off the bench, having some other guys not getting going, all those things add up.”
Johnson also cited Anthony Rendon’s learning curve at second base and as a rookie hitter, and Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper’s trouble with injuries this season. Johnson sees the team’s failures this season as a culmination of several minor flaws on the team’s roster, guys trying to hard and the inability to stay healthy early on. He also thinks the players may have been affected by their preseason expectations to contend for a World Series.
“They may just be trying to do too much. A lot of that could be them not used to being picked to win, consistently playing in important games, I don’t know. But I do like where the organization is at.”
Johnson has had trouble sleeping and his recently thrown out back isn’t helping. He described this season as “awful” for him personally and he owns up to his share of the blame.
“Myself and everybody around here, we’re all partially to blame because we’re not doing the things we’re capable of doing,” he said.
“I’m searching. Is it something I gotta say to somebody, do I have to start yelling at people? What can I do to get something positive going?”
Johnson faults none of his players for their effort this season, it could just be a matter of it not coming together at the right time.
“We just gotta keep battling. I believe in momentum shifts and we just haven’t had much momentum going,” he said.
Ross Ohlendorf threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and felt fine resting for the past two days. He will pitch four innings with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs on Saturday with a goal of 65 pitches.
Ross Detwiler feels “way ahead of schedule,” according to Johnson, but will continue to be shut down for the next few weeks before throwing again. The Nats will not need him to be cleared by Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles before he returns, according to Johnson
“I would like him to pitch before the year’s out, see how he is,” he said.
Chad Tracy was a late scratch in the Nats’ lineup after experiencing a stiff neck. Johnson wanted to give Adam LaRoche a second day off, but Tracy’s injury halted those plans. Tracy was talking to the Nats’ training staff, including team medical director Wiemi Duougiuh, before Friday’s game.
Johnson said he would like to have Tyler Moore on the Nationals roster to fill their lack of a right-handed backup first baseman. The skipper doesn’t see Moore being up in Washington, however, until the rosters are expanded for September call-ups.