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Nationals' Johnson plans to rest players

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Brian McNally

Manager to sit regulars if and when they clinch division

If and when the Nationals finally clinch the National League East this week, expect at least a little rest for manager Davey Johnson's top position players. If that move generates criticism from opponents who need his team to win to help their own playoff position, those clubs are out of luck.

"I'm resting my regulars. End of conversation," Johnson said before Monday's 12-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Up next
Nationals at Phillies
Ross Detwiler (10-6, 3.10 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (15-6, 3.05 ERA)
When » Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
Where » Citizens Bank Park,
Philadelphia
TV » MASN
Radio » 106.7 the Fan, WFED 1500, WHFS 1580
Nationals manager Davey Johnson still will start three left-handers against the Philadelphia Phillies this week during a three-game series. But he decided to flip the order, making the announcement Monday morning. Ross Detwiler will start the first game Tuesday, and John Lannan will follow on Wednesday. Gio Gonzalez goes for Washington in the series finale Thursday. The Phillies have a .692 OPS against left-handed pitchers in 2012, which ranks 22nd overall. But the Nats have a tough task Tuesday against lefty Cole Hamels, who is 12-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 23 career starts against Washington.

It's only an issue because Washington's magic number to clinch the division is down to five with nine games remaining. But three of those contests are this coming weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals, who currently hold the second and final National League wild-card spot.

The teams chasing them include the Milwaukee Brewers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks and even the Philadelphia Phillies. But if Johnson's club clinches before then, it's unlikely the Cardinals will see his best lineup.

"I really don't give a [darn] what somebody thinks about my club and who I put on the field to either help somebody else or I'm supposed to not rest my regulars after we clinch it," Johnson said.

That would include players like Michael Morse, who sat out Monday's game with a hand injury. He is dealing with a torn sheath in his left wrist and a bone bruise, too. In recent days both third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and second baseman Danny Espinosa have had cortisone shots to reduce inflammation in their left shoulders.

Expect all of those players to get some time off if the Nats clinch. They also play Philadelphia six more times beginning with Tuesday's game at Citizens Bank Park, so that strategy eventually could help the Phillies if they make one last push to catch St. Louis.

"It's probably per person. I think a lot of these guys have been playing every day all year," outfielder Jayson Werth said. "It just depends who is feeling good or who needs a day. It would be nice to get a day after we clinch, just a breath of fresh air. But we are playing teams that are in it also, so that needs to be considered."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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