Johnson grapples with lineup decisions

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Johnson grapples with lineup decisions

PITTSBURGH -- When he arrived in Viera, Fla., for spring training, Davey Johnson had a clear idea what his starting lineup would look like, and had no reason to believe it would change on a daily basis.

But then various members of the Nationals roster started dropping like flies, and so the veteran manager found himself early this morning scribbling out various combinations that might provide some spark to his struggling offense.

"Believe me, I had four or five lineups I was going through last night at 1:30 in the morning," he said. "And I'm taking any kind of input, even from writers. I'm all for it."

Johnson was kidding about taking advice from writers (we hope) but he did proceed to detail the challenges of putting together a starting lineup that takes all sorts of things into consideration: What gives his team its best chance to win that day, what's best in the long-term, what's best for slumping players, what's best for untested rookies.

Above all else, Johnson tries to abide by this mantra: Don't put players in a position where they fear the result of every single at-bat could affect their status.

"One thing you don't want to do is audition players," the manager said. "You have a good game? I'll hit you fifth. You have a bad game? I'll hit you ninth. I'm not an audition manager. I judge talent, and I put them where I think they should be, and I expect them to perform at that level."

That line of reasoning explains in part why a struggling player like Danny Espinosa (who enters tonight's game with a .186 average, two RBI and an NL-leading 37 strikeouts) remains in the heart of the Nationals' lineup, batting sixth tonight against the Pirates.

Johnson did admit concern about Espinosa, particularly his recent penchant to swing at breaking balls well out of the strike zone. But he also continues to preach the importance of showing confidence in young players still trying to establish themselves in the big leagues.

"I've had a lot of conversations with Danny," Johnson said. "I think he's an unbelievable talent, and if anybody could break one of my records, I said he'd be one of them. And I've explained I have higher expectations of you than probably you do. And he said: 'No, that's not true.' So I know he has the confidence. I know he has the ability. It's really just a matter of time."

Johnson did make one concession tonight, giving rookie Tyler Moore only his second chance to start in the nine games since the first basemanoutfielder was promoted from Class AAA Syracuse.

Moore, who over the last two-plus seasons hit 69 home runs in the minors, started in left field for his big-league debut April 29 in Los Angeles but since then has only come off the bench as a sporadic pinch-hitter or late replacement at first base.

How difficult has that been for a player used to starting on a nightly basis?

"I wouldn't say difficult," Moore said. "It's been a blast being up here. I definitely understand what my role is and what Davey wants to do. And the guys who have been playing have been doing great for us. It's definitely an adjustment, but I see why I'm sitting on the bench."

And where will Moore be tomorrow? With right-hander Kevin Correia starting for the Pirates, will he be back on the bench with Roger Bernadina in left field?

"The proof will be in the pudding," Johnson said. "I'm waiting for two or three of guys to play up to their capabilities. Obviously Espinosa, Bernadina, Xavier Nady. And Tyler Moore is kind of down on the list. These guys need to stand up. And if Tyler has a pretty good game, we'll take it from there."

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Despaigne allows four key runs in 6-2 Orioles loss

Despaigne allows four key runs in 6-2 Orioles loss

Twins 6, Orioles 2

Winner-Pressly (5-5)
Loser-Despaigne (0-2)

THE GOOD: In his first start since July 8, Ubaldo Jimenez delivered a creditable performance against the Twins. Jimenez allowed one run on five hits in five innings. He struck out eight and walked three. 

THE BAD: Odrisamer Despaigne followed Jimenez and he gave up four runs on five hits in 1 1/3 innings. The Twins scored four runs in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie.

Chaz Roe allowed the sixth run. 

The Orioles had won the first five games of the season series with the Twins.

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THE UGLY: How often are two runners tagged out at home in one inning? 

In the fourth inning, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo were thrown out at home on consecutive plays. 

Third baseman Eduardo Escobar threw home to nab Davis. Right fielder Max Kepler fired home to catch Trumbo. 

BREAKING THE SLUMP: Trumbo had been 0-for-18 until his fourth inning double. 

Chris Davis, who broke an 0-for-24 slump with a bunt single on Wednesday night, went 2-for-4. 

JOSEPH WITH NO RBIS: With his 0-for-3, Caleb Joseph now has 101 at-bats without an RBI.

LEADING IT OFF: Adam Jones hit his third leadoff home run on Kyle Gibson’s first pitch of the game. Jones has 19 this season. 

With his next home run, Jones will become the fourth Oriole to hit 20 this season. 

Jonathan Schoop has 17. If he hits three more, the Orioles will have five 20 home run hitters for the first time since 2012.

UP NEXT: The Orioles begin a three-game series in Toronto against the Blue Jays on Friday night. Kevin Gausman (2-7, 3.77) faces Marco Estrada (5-4, 2.94).

The Orioles (58-43) lead Toronto (57-43) by 1 ½ games in the AL East. 

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In context of Trumbo, a look at post-HR Derby power numbers for O's

In context of Trumbo, a look at post-HR Derby power numbers for O's

Mark Trumbo grounded out to short in his first at-bat on Thursday night. His hitless streak grew to 0-for-18 before a fourth-inning double, and he didn’t deny after Wednesday night’s game that he was tired. 

As can be expected, some readers have suggested that Trumbo’s participation in this month’s Home Run Derby hurt him.

Actually, Trumbo historically has lagged after the All-Star break. In his career, he bats .239 in the second half, 26 points lower than the first half. 

He hit 28 home runs before the All-Star break, and just two since. 

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It shouldn’t be a surprise that Trumbo has gone somewhat south. He’s played in each of the Orioles games, and didn’t have an All-Star break.

In fact after the Orioles had a grueling 10-game road trip to San Diego, Seattle and Los Angeles, they came home for three games and then Trumbo and his teammates flew back out west for the All-Star Game, then back East for the start of the second half. 

Last year, similar carping was heard about Manny Machado. He had 19 home runs at the All-Star break, participated in the Home Run Derby, then finished the year with 35.

In 2014, Adam Jones had 16 home runs prior to the Home Run Derby and 13 afterward, and in 2013, Chris Davis had 37 pre-All-Star Game and 16 in the second half. 

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Kerrigan insists he would've won state hoops title — if not for two NBA lottery picks

Kerrigan insists he would've won state hoops title — if not for two NBA lottery picks

Watch the full segment in the video player above

Ryan Kerrigan's 47.5 career sacks and 17 career forced fumbles are evidence that becoming an NFL player was the right career path for him to take. But football wasn't the only sport he played back as a high schooler in Muncie, Indiana.

"Baseball, I was a baseball player," Kerrigan said when Redskins Insider J.P. Finlay asked him what his secondary endeavors were as a teenager. "I was on the basketball team, [but] I wouldn't really call myself a 'player' 'cause that would've required me getting off the bench," he added.

While it sounds like the Bearcats' bench was plenty warm thanks to the now 27-year-old, Kerrigan did get the chance to be a part of a marquee matchup against some other soon-to-be-famous guys.

"My high school team was really good," he said. "State runner-up twice, and would've been state champs, I'd imagine, if we didn't run into Greg Oden and Mike Conley."

Oden and Conley, of course, both turned into stars on a 2007 Ohio State outfit that lost to Florida in the NCAA title game that year (which must've felt like justice being served to Kerrigan). They then went on to be lottery picks in the 2007 NBA Draft, and Conley just recently became the league's highest-paid man. So you could imagine how much of a handful they were in high school.

Some quick research reveals that Lawrence North (the squad that featured the two Buckeyes) topped Muncie Central (Kerrigan's side) in 2005 and 2006. No. 91 didn't specify which one of those championship bouts he was referring to, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that his legs didn't get too sore from sitting on the pine, and he eventually ended up with the Redskins.

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