Do you think Davey Johnson will return as manager of the Nationals in 2012? -- Tom J., Reva, Va.
There is no question in my mind that Johnson will be back as manager of the Nationals. I had people in the front office tell me they want Johnson back in the same role. He did a great job of sticking to "the plan." For example, none of Johnson's predecessors would have benched right-hander Livan Hernandez or catcher Ivan Rodriguez to give the young players a chance to play.
Even the players feel he should be back. Here is what outfielder Jayson Werth had to say about Johnson: "Given the situation that he came into, which I don't think would have been an easy situation for anybody, he did things his way and the way he wanted to do it, which speak to his character and his experience. It was all good. The transition was smooth, he kind of gave this team some order. That's good. What he does so well, I think, is that he lets everybody play.
"There is not a presence that is looking down on anybody. He keeps it fresh. He keeps it light. The clubhouse atmosphere has only gotten better [since] he came along. That is the biggest thing to me. Ever since he showed up here, the chemistry in the clubhouse got so much better. It's just that air of confidence."
Are the Nationals thinking about moving Ian Desmond to center field, Danny Espinosa to shortstop and Stephen Lombardozzi to second? They always say that shortstops are the best skilled players. I think they will get the center fielder they need and improve their infield defense. -- Ronald B., Crestview, Fla.
There isn't any talk of putting Desmond in center field, right now. Johnson has made it clear that Desmond is a shortstop and Espinosa is the second baseman. The skipper often compares Desmond to former shortstop Barry Larkin, who Johnson calls the best player he ever managed. So I don't see anything changing in the future.
If the Nationals are looking for a center fielder, why not Carlos Beltran, even though he is aging and has been hurt in the past? He seems to fit all of the Nationals' needs and is a good veteran presence for some of the young players. -- Noah L., Aldie, Va.
I don't see it happening because he is always injured and is best suited for a corner position, which the Nationals don't need -- unless they put Werth in center field. We'll see what happens. If the Nationals have interest, Beltran should get no more than a one-year deal because of his history with injuries.
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan are locks for next year's rotation. Considering Mike Rizzo would like to acquire a veteran starter, that would mean that Chien-Ming Wang (if re-signed), Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and the other Minor Leaguers will all be fighting for one spot? -- Marcus W., Washington D.C.
Rizzo has often said that a team never has enough pitching, and used the 2011 Red Sox as an example of a team that needed all the pitching they could get to stay in the Wild Card race. The Red Sox ended up going home after the season ended. So, yes, there would be a lot of competition for the final spot in Washington's rotation next year.
I think Chris Marrero has proven in a short time that he is a Major League hitter. What role, if any, do you think he will have with the team next season? -- Jason S., Washington, D.C.
I agree that Marrero was impressive -- offensively and defensively -- this past season. He is one of two first basemen (Adam LaRoche is the other) expected to be at Spring Training in February. It would not surprise me if Marrero is used as a trade chip to get a starting pitcher or a center fielder. If he is not traded, I could see him as a backup coming off the bench.
Since being sent to the bullpen, Tom Gorzelanny has done a pretty decent job. Do you see him back in the bullpen next year? -- Alex C., Montreal
There is no question in my mind that Gorzelanny will be back as a reliever for Washington next year. He is a lefty pitcher who is expected to be a swing man in 2012. He did a great job out of the bullpen, going 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA. Also, Johnson loves to have lefties out of the bullpen, and Gorzelanny fits the bill.
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You have reported that the Nats' front office isn't sold on outfielder Roger Bernadina. Please explain how Werth, Jonny Gomes and Brian Bixler are improvements. -- Randy S., Arlington, Va.
I never said those three guys were improvements over Bernadina. There are days when Bernadina looks like a star in the making, but other days when he looks lost -- offensively and defensively.
I'm not sure if Gomes and Bixler will be back with the team next year. Gomes has a big heart and plays hard all the time. He could be one of the sluggers Johnson is looking for off the bench. There is no doubt that Gomes has to cut down on his strikeouts.
As far as Bixler goes, he is coming off a disappointing season. Johnson wants more power off the bench, so I don't think Bixler is a fit for next year.
Werth has six years left on his contract, so he will get another chance to produce like he did with the Phillies.
Despite his inconsistency, Hernandez definitely shows that he wants to stay with the Nationals and brings so much to the clubhouse. He is even willing to become a long reliever. With that in mind, do you think he'll be re-signed? -- George L., Washington D.C.
I don't see Hernandez coming back because of Gorzelanny being the swingman. I just don't see the Nationals carrying two swingmen on the team.