02/13/2013 4:46 PM ET
Eckstein has managerial aspirations
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
VIERA, Fla. -- Rick Eckstein has been the hitting coach of the Nationals since 2009 and he indicated that he would like to manage in the big leagues someday. It would not come as a surprise if he became a candidate to replace Davey Johnson as the manager of the team after the 2013 season.
Eckstein has never managed in the big leagues, but was a third-base and bench coach for the IBAF Baseball World Cup in 2005, and was Johnson's bench coach at the World Baseball Classic.
Asked if he would like to manage in the big leagues, Eckstein said, "The aspirations to manage are always there. But whatever contract you sign, whatever title you have to your name, that's where your total focus has to be. But I would have to say yes, I do see myself in that [managerial] role. Right now, I'm the hitting coach and I need to put all my focus there and continue to do the good things that I'm capable of doing in that role."
Johnson stands by Gonzalez after Bosch report
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he supports left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who denied that he used performance-enhancing drugs. A report from the Miami New Times linked the left-hander to Anthony Bosch, who reportedly supplied PEDs to professional athletes from Miami.
Gonzalez reiterated recently that he didn't use PEDs, and Johnson believes him.
"Knowing Gio, I figured there's nothing much to it," Johnson said. "I got to know him real well. I know that he is very conscious of taking care of himself. I know all pitchers are looking for vitamins and whatever they can to help, but he takes care of himself very well. I'm sure he wouldn't do anything to break the rules."
Even though Gonzalez's name has surfaced in the Miami New Times, it has not intensified the Nationals' search to look for a starting pitcher in case Gonzalez is suspended.
"I can't talk about the Gio situation. Right now, I expect to put him in the lineup every fifth day," general manager Mike Rizzo said.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez is scheduled to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Gonzalez is expected to get at least three starts with the Nationals before he joins the team. Gonzalez is expected to pitch his first game in the Classic on March 10.
Nationals confident in Espinosa's shoulder
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals manager Davey Johnson said he is not concerned about second baseman Danny Espinosa, who is dealing with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder. Johnson liked the way Espinosa has rehabbed the shoulder and feels that he is strong enough to start the season on time.
Johnson also said he is happy that Espinosa declined to go to the World Baseball Classic because of the injury. At the start of Spring Training, Johnson plans to go slow with Espinosa and make sure there aren't any flare-ups from the injury.
"He feels he did enough to exercise around the shoulder. It's not going to be a problem. He has been swinging a lot. He feels great," Johnson said about Espinosa. "[Hitting coach] Rick Eckstein said he really likes the way he has been swinging [the bat] and I don't think that is a problem."
Span early to camp, eager to join new team
VIERA, Fla. -- Nationals position players are not required to report until Friday, but center fielder Denard Span was in camp Wednesday and was seen working out at Space Coast Stadium.
Span arrived in Viera on Tuesday night and acknowledged that he had a tough time sleeping because he was thinking about joining his new team. Span was acquired from the Twins last November for pitcher Alex Meyer.
"I went to sleep about 12:30 a.m., but I kept waking up every couple of hours. It's was like the first day of school," Span said.
Span is the leadoff hitter the Nationals have been looking to acquire for several years. With him on the roster, it means that Jayson Werth can move to the middle of the order. Asked if there is any added pressure to produce at the top of the lineup, Span said, "I don't think so. The team is already in place. I don't feel I have to come in here and do a whole lot. I just have to do half of what I've done in the past and I think I'll be all right. They already have a good team here and they are just looking for me to play good defense and put good at-bats together. I know if I'm healthy and on the field, I'll be OK."
Desmond in no rush to sign extension
VIERA, Fla. -- After recently signing a one-year, $3.8 million contract, shortstop Ian Desmond said he is not in a rush to sign an extension with the Nationals.
Desmond is coming off the best season of his career, hitting .292 with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs, but Desmond and the Nationals haven't talk about a bigger deal lately.
"By no means have we ever talked about any figures, years, nothing like that," Desmond said. "[The Nationals] asked if we were interested. We said possibly. That's pretty much the extent of it. Obviously, I feel blessed to be in the situation that I'm in where I'm on a one-year contract, finally made it to arbitration. When we get there, we get there."
General manager Mike Rizzo said there isn't a deadline to get an extension done with any of his players.
"There is no vital deadline that has to be met," he said.
• Johnson said that right-hander Henry Rodriguez is currently pitching with a sore right elbow. Rodriguez missed the postseason last year after having bone spurs removed from the elbow.
• Rizzo and Jordan Zimmermann said they are not close to getting a one-year deal done. They are scheduled to go to arbitration on Feb. 19.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.