Nats skipper familiar with pitching woes

SAN FRANCISCO -- Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson can relate to the struggles of San Francisco's starting rotation, having guided some talented staffs himself.

Johnson's 1986 New York Mets, who won the World Series along with a staggering 108 regular-season games, had three starters -- Ron Darling, Dwight Gooden and Bob Ojeda -- finish with ERAs under 2.84. Two years later, his rotation of Darling, Gooden, Ojeda, David Cone and Sid Fernandez posted ERAs ranging from 2.22 to 3.25.

They rarely slumped. But when they did, Johnson found that pitch sequence tended to be a shortcoming.

"Sometimes your pitchers get in a rut," Johnson said before Monday's Giants-Nationals series opener. "Sometimes when you have really good command with one pitch, you use that pitch to set up all your other pitches and everybody gets to know it. You have to be able to go back and forth on setting up pitches to get guys out."

Johnson added that video equipment has eliminated surprises.

"With high-tech today, there ain't no secrets," Johnson said. "Everybody's got a video and everybody studies it, and there's somebody counting and tracking [pitches]. It's the same with hitters. If they have a weakness, opposing pitchers know how to get right at it."

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.