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Rizzo on Johnson and the 'Nationals way'

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Rizzo on Johnson and the 'Nationals way'

At 69 years of age, Nationals manger Davey Johnson is the oldest skipper in the majors. His assuming of the interim job last season was a surprise not only because of his age, he had also been out of the dugout for over a decade. Given these facts, it is unlikely Johnson would profile as a progressive, or even innovative, baseball manager. But in a recent interview with FanGraphs.com, general manager Mike Rizzo stated he thinks Davey is as creative as any of his peers.

Davey is less old-school than you might think. He is a modern-thinking manager, even though his age may not convey that. Hes very open-minded, Rizzo said.

He was using data before data was in vogue. He was using data when he was a rookie player. When Davey was thinking about his raises as a young major-league player he brought out that his on-base percentage was better than that of Player X, who was making X. Hes used numbers for a long time. As you may know, he was a mathematics major, so hes into numbers and he uses them. He always has.

Rizzo told FanGraphs Johnson is one of the best baseball guys he has ever been around. Rizzo clearly respects Johnsons opinion and has been proven right in hindsight. With a series sweep in Boston over the weekend, Johnson now holds a 35-23 record with the team this season and a .532 winning percentage overall in his 143 games as Nationals manager.

But Johnsons effect doesnt stop at the big league level, as Rizzo will tell you, the Nats GM says Daveys influence is felt top to bottom. The former Orioles second baseman and manager, part of the Oriole Way, has brought a similar philosophy to Washington.

We employ the Nationals Way, if you will the way that we like to see things done. And the most important thing there is being consistent, from the Dominican Summer League teams to the major leagues. We like to be all-encompassing and do things the same way at each and every level of our system. That way, when the players do get to Washington, they know the way Davey Johnson wants it to be done.

Rizzo makes it sound almost like the New Jersey Devils of hockey who teach players a specific system to carry over when they make the top club. To their credit, the Nationals have seen great success from their Triple-A promotions. Both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock showed enough last year to help bring Gio Gonzalez to Washington. Steve Lombardozzi and Chris Marrero have both had success at the major league level, Lomardozzi currently in the lineup and Marrero on his way back from injury. And of course Bryce Harper made his way through the farm system and has shown he was more than ready for the games highest level.

At this point you cant argue with the results of Johnson and Rizzos rule of the Nationals and the creativity of the teams manager may play a larger role than many think.

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Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper knows why he didn't play well, but he won't specify why

Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers. 

Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.  

Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS. 

With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years. 

Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan

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Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

Nationals' Max Scherzer says he may not be ready for season opener

The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger. 

When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue. 

Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season. 

Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans. 

Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts. 

Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010. 

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