General manager Mike Rizzo said recently that a manager will be in place by Monday. McLaren will manage the Nationals on Saturday afternoon.
"I don't want to talk about the situation," McLaren said after Washington's 9-5 victory over the White Sox. "We could talk about it tomorrow. I'm just happy we won the game. We'll just go get them tomorrow."
Calls to Johnson were not returned and Rizzo was not available for comment.
Johnson, 68, was a senior advisor to Rizzo before taking over as manager. Johnson takes over a team that has improved dramatically from last year. Entering Saturday's action, the Nationals are 39-37 and only 3 1/2 games behind the Braves for the National League Wild Card.
"Davey is a great baseball guy. I had a chance to be around him during Spring Training quite a bit," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "Whoever is going to be the manager of this team, he is going to be very happy with what we have here. The manager is part of every important team. The group, the chemistry we have here is exciting to be a part of. It would nice to have someone in the managerial role."
As a kid growing up in New York, right-hander Jason Marquis watched Johnson guide the Mets to their last World Series title in '86 and remembered Johnson's face being all over the news.
"He has a great track record. Great baseball mind, great person," Marquis said. "The good thing about it is, he knows all of us and the organization. He helped straighten this team to where it is now -- being an advisor to Rizzo. We are excited."
Ray Knight, a broadcaster for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, played for Johnson as a member of the Mets and coached for the new skipper when both were with the Reds. Knight had his last good season while playing for Johnson. In '86, Knight hit .298, with 11 home runs and 76 RBIs. In the postseason that year, Knight would go on to win the World Series MVP.
Knight calls Johnson a players' manager.
"He is brilliant. He is a brilliant manager. I enjoyed playing for him. I enjoyed playing for him more than any manager I've played for," Knight said via telephone. "He is an easy guy to play for. He doesn't ask for a lot. He is not one of those guys that shouts and screams. He designates responsibility with coaches and expects it to be carried out. He is one of the soft, quiet, strong people that get the most out of his talent. You just love playing for him."
Johnson played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues for the Orioles, Braves, Phillies and Cubs, hitting 136 home runs in 1,435 games. His best season was 1973 with Atlanta, when he tied Rogers Hornsby's record with 42 home runs as a second baseman, hitting a 43rd as a pinch-hitter.
Johnson has managed in international play for the Netherlands and the United States, including leading Team USA, which included right-hander Stephen Strasburg, during the 2008 Olympic Games.