Davey Johnson is likely to keep job, but Nationals will conduct a manager search anyway

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Davey Johnson has gone 38-42 since taking over for Jim Riggleman as Nationals manager and every indication is that he’ll be retained for 2012, but before that happens general manager Mike Rizzo will go through the process of a manager search.

Yesterday the GM told Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com that “we’ve got a very streamlined group of high quality candidates that we’re going to talk to” and “I anticipate the process being much quicker, because we’ve already identified a lot of the candidates that we’re going to talk to.”

In other words, Johnson may not have to wait very long to find out if he gets to keep the job, although he apparently will have to interview for the full-time gig just like everyone else.

Zuckerman writes that Johnson “is the heavy favorite” and notes that Rizzo may have signed him to a multi-year managing contract months ago if MLB didn’t require the Nationals “to conduct full, formal managerial searches that include minority candidates.” Instead he signed a three-year “consultant” deal that covers various possible roles.

“I love Davey,” Rizzo told Zuckerman. “He’s going to be back next year in some capacity, either as the manager of the ball club or have a big say as to who is the manager of the ball club.” Nationals third base coach Bo Porter and Triple-A manager Randy Knorr will be among the non-Johnson candidates to interview, but this is clearly his job to lose.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.