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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MRI reveals Redskins' DeAngelo Hall has completely torn ACL

MRI reveals Redskins' DeAngelo Hall has completely torn ACL

A veteran and a leader for the Redskins defense, it appears DeAngelo Hall's season is now finished just three games into 2016.

Hall injured his knee in the first half of Sunday's game against the Giants. The play looked bad in real time and Hall looked to be in much pain leaving the field.

Somewhat encouragingly, Hall was spotted on the sidelines after the play he was injured on, though Redskins PR announced the safety would not return to the game.

In the moments following Washington's dramatic win, Hall told the media he believed his ACL was torn, certainly putting a damper on the jubilant scene.

Beyond Hall, the Redskins are waiting for further diagnosis on starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland as well as offensive linemen Shawn Lauvao and Kory Lichtensteiger.

Assuming Hall misses significant time, the Redskins will be forced to juggle their secondary, especially if Breeland also misses time. When Hall went out in New York, veteran Will Blackmon picked up much of the slack and played well.

Going forward, defensive coordinator Joe Barry can also look to players like Duke Ihenacho or Deshazor Everett for help. Ihenacho is an experienced NFL safety while Everett showed in the preseason he's not just a special teams player but can play safety at the pro level.

Beyond Ihenacho and Everett, the Redskins may also consider some playing time for rookie Su'a Cravens in the secondary. Drafted as a hybrid linebacker/safety, Cravens made a big-time impact in the win over the Giants and has proven he needs to be on the field a lot for Barry's defense.

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM THE REDSKINS WIN OVER THE GIANTS

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Who would be the lucky 25 on an Orioles postseason roster?

Who would be the lucky 25 on an Orioles postseason roster?

A week from now, the Orioles season will be over — or it will be just beginning. 

The guess here is that the Orioles make it into the postseason, and they’ll return to Toronto just days after they left it for the wild-card game on Oct. 4. 

Of course, the Orioles could host that wild-card game eight days from now, but that would assume they beat out the Toronto Blue Jays, whom they trail by 1 ½ games. The Blue Jays play the Yankees tonight, and if they lose, the Orioles will trail by a game. If they win, it’s two games, and the Orioles have to sweep in order to leave Toronto with the advantage. 

Incidentally, if the Orioles and Blue Jays end the regular season with the same record, the team that wins the season series gets home field, and the Orioles must win all three games to capture a 10-9 advantage.

Rogers Centre has historically been unfriendly to the Orioles. They’ve lost five of seven there this year, and they won the season series in Toronto just once (2014) in the last 11 series. 

They haven’t won even a three-game series there since June 2015, when they took two of three, and haven’t swept three games since Apr. 22-24, 2005. 

Detroit, which trails the Orioles by 1 ½ games, plays Cleveland, and should the Orioles and Tigers tie for the second wild card, they’d play a tiebreaker in Baltimore a week from now. 

If the Orioles get to the wild-card, they’ll have to trim their roster from 35 to 25. (If they have to play a tiebreaker, it’s treated as a 163rd regular season game, and they’d have the full roster on hand.)

If they get to the wild card and win it, they would play the American League team with the best record. 

At the moment, Boston, winners of 11 straight, and Texas both have 92-64 records. Cleveland, which is about to clinch the AL Central, is 90-65.

Who would be on the Orioles playoff roster?

SURE THINGS: 

Pitchers — Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens, Darren O’Day, Donnie Hart. 

Catchers — Matt Wieters, Caleb Joseph

Infielders — Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Ryan Flaherty, Pedro Alvarez

Outfielders — Hyun Soo Kim, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Michael Bourn

Of the remaining five roster spots, four would probably go to pitchers. 
Would manager Buck Showalter want six starting pitcher types and include Yovani Gallardo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley? 

All three have pitched well recently. 

Gallardo has only pitched two seasons in the American League, and is 2-2 with a 5.28 ERA against Boston. He allowed two runs in five innings in his only start against Cleveland and is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in his two starts against Texas, for whom he pitched last season. 

Jimenez is 2-6 with a 6.82 ERA when facing the Red Sox, 1-3 with a 5.87 ERA against Cleveland and 4-3 with a 2.78 ERA against Texas.

Miley recorded just four outs while allowing six runs in his only start against the Red Sox, is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in two starts against Cleveland and 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA in four starts against Texas. 

If you’re thinking that maybe Showalter could use Gallardo, Jimenez or Miley as a swingman, the Orioles would only need four starters in a five-game Division Series, and only Jimenez has pitched in the bullpen recently. 

Gallardo’s three major league relief appearances came in 2007, and Miley hasn’t pitched in relief since 2012. 

Of course, if Showalter was concerned that Dylan Bundy was tiring, he could always put him in the bullpen for the postseason and use two of Gallardo, Jimenez and Miley as starters. 

If Showalter chose to put Gallardo, Jimenez and Miley on the postseason roster, and the Orioles carried 12 pitchers, they’d have to choose between Oliver Drake, Tommy Hunter and Vance Worley for the 12th spot. 

Drake has allowed just two earned runs on four hits in 11 innings since his recall last August from Norfolk, but is by far the rawest choice. 

Hunter has tons of postseason experience, and while Worley hasn’t been used as often since the rosters expanded, he could be more valuable as a long man with a shorter roster. 

As for the extra position player, Bourn is included because of his pinch running and defensive ability, and based on his first week in the big leagues, the Orioles may opt for Trey Mancini over Nolan Reimold. 

The Orioles would travel with a handful of extra players for the postseason in case of injuries. The pitchers who aren’t selected — catcher Francisco Pena, infielder Paul Janish and outfielder Drew Stubbs — could also go along, if they’re needed later on. 

RELATED: ORIOLES STRENGTHEN PLAYOFF POSITION WITH WIN OVER ARIZONA