Viera, Fla. – There is little doubt the first day of workouts for Nationals pitchers and catchers was different for manager Davey Johnson.
After taking over for Jim Riggleman in June last year, Johnson is running his first big league camp since he skippered the Dodgers back in 2000. There is still a lot of “old school” in the way the 69-year old manager likes to do things.
For example, during an early morning meeting with his pitchers before they went out to throw their side sessions, Johnson set down a few instructions. Fastballs and change-ups only, no breaking pitches.
“It’s kind of the old comfort zone I have,” Johnson said. “I know they are in better condition and they have been throwing since mid-January off the mound and their arms strength is probably up to throwing breaking balls, but I like to see them without the breaking ball. Normally, I would take it away until maybe one rotation before the game. I did catch a couple of guys trying to cheat on me — they were throwing cutters and I had to say I consider that a breaking ball so you know, that one’s out.”
Johnson wanted to use the “no-breaking ball” policy the first day as a precaution for his pitchers as they try to get ready for the upcoming season.
“It’s just easier on the arm,” he said. “The breaking ball is harder on all aspects of the arm. With the adrenalin going through everybody on the first day, in a lot of cases with a new skipper, I don’t want anyone snapping off breaking balls that early.”
There was one other thing Johnson wanted to make crystal clear to his pitchers.
“If anyone has any tenderness at any time, I want to know about it. One day of missing a side or missing a ballgame to get you ready for the start of the season is paramount in my mind. I definitely won’t hold it against you. I will hold it more against you if you don’t tell me.”
Most of his pitchers got their work in. Gio Gonzalez and Sean Burnett did their side sessions over at Space Coast Stadium while working on videos for the Jumbotron at Nationals Park. Edwin Jackson is scheduled to throw tomorrow.
“By and large, I was very pleased,” Johnson said. “Chien-Ming [Wang] threw the ball good. I knew he had some ailments with his left hand and shoulder but he looked exceptionally fluid and popping the ball. [Stephen Strasburg] looked like Stras. Watching Gio throw, the ball came out of his hand real good and had a lot of life. Those were guys, and I got a chance to watch everybody and everybody was throwing long and it was a good first day. I was pleased with everything.”
With nightmare over, Ramos ready to go
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was back in Viera ready to put last winter’s ordeal of his kidnapping behind him.
He was showing off a brand new tattoo in Spanish down his left arm which translated means, “I put everything in Jesus, because he has my back.”
Ramos was abducted in the front yard of his mother’s house in Valencia, Venezuela on Nov. 9. He was rescued two days later Venezuelan police. After his rescue, Ramos returned to his Venezuelan Winter League team and played for another month- and-a-half.
The 24-year old catcher spoke to reporters in the dugout at Space Coast Stadium, happy his nightmare is over and ready to focus on baseball.
“I’m excited to be here with my friends and play baseball again,” Ramos said. “Now I concentrate and see everybody, the new guys, and the new pitchers. I’m really, really happy to be here again.”
Ramos, who was acquired by the Nats from Minnesota in the trade that sent Matt Capps to the Twins in 2010, is highly touted and expected to be behind the plate for years to come. He would like nothing more than to be behind the plate on opening day.
“I want to catch the first game,” he said. “If the team gave me that opportunity I would be very, very excited to catch that game.”
Tomorrow: Adam LaRoche makes his way back from shoulder surgery.