Bill Ladson of MLB.com has a story up about how the Nationals have a new offensive identity this year. The crux of it: Davey Johnson — unlike seemingly every broadcaster you’ve ever heard — is NOT a fan of his hitters always trying to take the ball the other way. Rather, he wants his hitters to pull the ball if they get busted inside rather than seek out those “good piece of hitting” pats on the head.
But in saying so, he quite clearly criticized his predecessor, Jim Riggleman, for emphasizing that approach, noting that it’s not his philosophy, nor is it the philosophy of Rick Eckstein, the hitting coach under both of them:
“I think the regime before liked everybody to go the other way. We really couldn’t handle fastballs [inside]. We didn’t hit the ball where it was pitched. We have the talent to hit the ball where it was pitched, but we were a little defensive. … We had the book on us. … ‘Pound them in with hard stuff,’ and we weren’t able to do much.”
If it’s a bit unusual for a manager to directly reference “the regime before” in such matters, it’s extremely uncommon for a player to slag on his last manager by name like Jayson Werth does later in the article:
“Between last year and this year, it’s night and day,” Werth said. “Just the whole atmosphere in the clubhouse. You have an iconic manager that really knows how to handle this team. If we still had a guy like Riggleman as the manager, I don’t think the team is where it’s at.”
Of course, players have been super positive things about Davey Johnson for his whole career and the results speak for themselves, yet he has been run out of town a number of times. It’s almost as if he sometimes has run-ins with the front office or something.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.