"Frank Robinson is the manager, and Davey is not going to manage the Washington Nationals," Bowden said in his office. "Just like nobody should read into that the general manager has any more security. It's an opportunity to bring in a good baseball mind to help us during this time period. There's nothing more to it."
When reached by phone in Atlanta, Robinson declined to comment on the hiring of Johnson, who was a teammate of Robinson's when both were with the Orioles from 1966-71. According to two sources, Robinson didn't know about the hiring until a member of the media gave him the news around 5 p.m. ET.
But Johnson said early Thursday morning that he was not hired to replace Robinson in the future.
"That's ridiculous," Johnson said. "I have a lot of respect for Frank Robinson. He has done a great job. I'm here to help him. I have watched a lot of the prospects and I think I'm a pretty good scout."
Bowden said the Johnson hiring was approved by incoming president Stan Kasten. Johnson was brought in, according to Bowden, because the Nationals currently don't have a lot of experienced scouts.
Johnson is best known for managing the Mets to a World Series title in 1986. Bowden and Johnson will work together for the first time since the 1995 season, when both were with the Reds. Bowden was the GM and Johnson managed the club at the time. Together, they won two division titles in 1994 and '95. Johnson was relieved of his duties following the '95 season. They reunited last March when Johnson came to the Nationals' Spring Training facility to visit Bowden.
Johnson posted 1,148 wins as a big-league manager from 1984-2000, a total that ranks 38th on the all-time managerial wins list. He notched a .564 winning percentage (1,148-888) overall as a manager with the Mets, Reds, Orioles and Dodgers.
Johnson most recently served as the bench coach for Team USA at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March. Last November, he managed Team USA to a perfect 5-0 record in the CONCEBE North American Regional Olympic Qualifying Tournament to advance to this August's COPABE Olympic America's Tournament in Havana, Cuba.
"Davey is a tremendous evaluator of players, [and he has] a tremendous understanding of building a championship organization. There is a reason he won 90 games five years in a row," Bowden said. "I spent some time with him in Spring Training and he came over to watch the game and I saw him again in Orlando. He recruited a lot of players the last couple of years. He knows a lot of the young players because of his experience."
Johnson also said he is in excellent health. A couple of years ago he had a ruptured appendix and had right rotator cuff surgery a few months ago.
"Maybe I threw too many baseballs. But I'm ready to throw the baseballs," Johnson jokingly said about the rotator cuff.