By Rick Gano
AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Davey Johnson was announced as the manager of the Washington Nationals on Sunday, three days after Jim Riggleman stunned the team by resigning.
Johnson will manage the rest of the season and his first game will be Monday against the Los Angeles Angels. He has been a senior adviser with the team since 2009, though he hasn’t managed in the big leagues since 2000 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Johnson also agreed to a three-year consulting contract through 2013 that will allow him to remain with the team and help select a successor for next season. It could be him.
“Davey’s a perfect fit for this job at this particular time. He’s a guy with a track record that’s beyond reproach. He knows the system, he knows the staff, he knows the major league club and he’s a terrific baseball guy and a proved winning manager,” general manager Mike Rizzo said.
Interim manager John McLaren ran the team for the third straight game in Sunday’s series finale against the Chicago White Sox. Riggleman’s former bench coach will leave the team after the game and be reassigned to scouting duties within the organization.
Less than an hour before game time Sunday, a loud round of applause could be heard coming from the Nationals’ clubhouse as Rizzo thanked McLaren. At the same meeting, Rizzo informed the team of Johnson’s hiring – not a well-kept secret over the last three days.
“It’s an extremely positive reaction. They all know Davey, he’s been in spring training, in uniform,” Rizzo said. “They’ve interacted with him, they know his resume and just talking to him, the respect that he has in that room, even before he sets foot in there as manager, is second to none.”
Johnson was not available for comment Sunday and would not be returning calls, a team spokesman said. He was scheduled to join the team later for the flight to Los Angeles.
The 68-year-old Johnson managed the Mets, Dodgers, Reds and Orioles over 14 seasons and compiled a 1148-888 record. He led the 1986 Mets to a World Series championship, and 11 of his teams finished first or second 14 times.
Even though he hasn’t managed in the majors for 11 years, Johnson did skipper Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing, and two summers ago managed amateur players in a Florida summer collegiate league.
Rizzo said he talked with several other people about the job but did not formally interview them because Johnson was easily his first choice after Riggleman bolted.
“When we got the news, you automatically go into ‘Plan B’ mode and try to think outside the box,” Rizzo said. “We had to make decisions rationally and clearly, but quickly. We were fortunate to have such a clear-cut and easy alternative right there.”
Riggleman resigned abruptly Thursday after the Nationals beat Seattle, unhappy that Rizzo declined to have a conversation about picking up his option for 2012. The departure was stunning for its timing – the Nationals have won 12 of their last 14 games before Sunday.
It was the second time in a week a manager has resigned and been replaced. Florida skipper Edwin Rodriguez quit last Sunday – under much different circumstances with the Marlins struggling – and was replaced by 80-year-old Jack McKeon.
Now, Johnson will return to a team that has played well lately and has a bright future with a young star in 18-year-old Bryce Harper, who is tearing up Class-A ball, and with 22-year-old powerful right-hander Stephen Strasburg expected to recover from elbow surgery.
“I know they’ve got great vision here. I know Davey Johnson is gonna do a great job here,” McLaren said before his final game Sunday. McLaren said he met with Nationals players in groups to tell them about his future.
“I didn’t want them to not hear it from me,” McLaren said. “I feel bad about Jim Riggleman. It’s a tough situation for everybody. He’s a good friend. I wish it hadn’t gone down like this, but it did and I think we’ll move on.”