WASHINGTON (AP) - Near the top of Davey Johnson's wish list with the Washington Nationals: "a guy sitting over next to me with a big, hairy chest."
Johnson settled into his new office Friday for his first home game as the Nationals' interim manager, reflecting on what he's learned and what he'd like to have after a frenetic opening few days on the job.
"I love the ball club. I love the talent level. But I'm not really comfortable with the pieces and the way they fit together," Johnson said before the series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I think it's wonderful being around a .500 club, but that doesn't win championships."
If nothing else, it's already clear he'll be no Jim Riggleman, whose abrupt resignation last week brought Johnson back to a major league dugout for the first time in 11 years. Johnson, who opened 0-3 in a Washington uniform after a road sweep by the Los Angeles Angels, already has a list of things that concern him:
- "I'd like to have a little more offense sitting on the bench, which causes more problems for the opposing manager and creates better matchups for us," he said. "I'm not real comfortable not having, as Frank Howard would say, a guy sitting over next to me with a big, hairy chest."
- Johnson says "there's some issues out of the bullpen." He wants to do a better job establishing long reliever and setup guys, and he's also uncomfortable not having a readily available sixth starter. "If something happened to my starter, I don't like to bring a guy out of the bullpen that's only capable of giving me a couple of innings," he said.
- He also wants more than one left-handed reliever. Right now, Sean Burnett is the only one.
- The Nationals have managed to get near .500 with pitching and defense. That's not how Johnson likes it. "My philosophy is basic: I want to get ahead, and then I'll defend. ... The strengths that they bring - speed, defense - that's good if we're ahead. If we're not always ahead, I want to get ahead."
- To that end, he's not a fan of having Laynce Nix bat fourth. "I am uncomfortable in hitting a mostly defensive specialist, utility-type player for my cleanup hitter." Nevertheless, Nix was still listed at cleanup Friday night.
- And Jayson Werth batting second? Maybe not too much longer. Werth hit only .154 in June batting in the leadoff and No. 2 spots, and Johnson wants him further down. "When I was in spring training, I really felt like Jayson would be a great five-hole hitter. He's had some problems this year. I think hitting in the two hole is not going to hurt him right now. Get him going. He's got a great hitter hitting behind him."
- Riggleman was hitting the pitcher eighth during the Nationals' winning tear in mid-June. For Johnson, that just doesn't make statistical sense. "I've never hit a pitcher eighth, and I don't plan on doing it in the near future. The pitcher's chances of getting on base are a lot less than the guy hitting behind him, so the more guys I can get up there before the pitcher hits, I'm going to do it."
- Even the setting for Johnson's meetings with reporters will change. He likes to talk in more relaxed settings - the dugout before the game, his office after the game - instead of the formal news conferences held by predecessors Riggleman, Manny Acta and Frank Robinson.
First, however, Johnson must deal with all the extracurricular duties associated with the manager's job, the sort of non-baseball stuff that takes up more time than it did when he was managing the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000.
"I had a board meeting today and I had a promotions meeting and now I got this meeting. I'd like to have a meeting with the doctors," the 68-year-old Johnson said. "I'll be glad to get past the stuff off the field and spend more time with my guys."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP