Nationals formally announce 2016 Major League coaching staff

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By Kyle Brostowitz

The Washington Nationals announced manager Dusty Baker’s full coaching staff on Tuesday, making the additions of bench coach Chris Speier, pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Rick Schu, first base coach Davey Lopes, third base coach Bobby Henley, assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones, and bullpen coach Dan Firova official.

Speier, 65, returns to the dugout as Baker’s bench coach, a role he served for six seasons (2008-13) with the Cincinnati Reds. Speier comes to Washington after gaining experience with six other organizations as a manager, coach or instructor, and after having served as Special Assistant to Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty the last two seasons (2014-15). A member of Baker’s staff in Chicago as well, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach from 2005-06, Speier spent the 2004 season as bench coach for the Oakland Athletics, coached third base for the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks, and served in the same role for the 2000 Brewers. Speier, who has extensive experience as a minor league manager and coach, played 19 years professionally. The three-time All-Star’s career spanned stops in San Francisco, Montreal, St. Louis, Minnesota and Chicago and included three postseason appearances

Maddux, 54, comes to Washington after seven seasons as the Texas Rangers’ pitching coach. During his tenure, the Texas Rangers earned four postseason berths, and Maddux was integral in developing many Rangers pitchers. Under his watch in 2015, Colby Lewis ranked fifth in the American League with 17 wins, while Yovani Gallardo’s 3.42 ERA ranked 11th. In 2014, his staff ranked second in the American league with 17 shutouts, second-most in Texas history. From 2010-13, the Rangers were one of just five clubs (along with Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, and Tampa) to post four consecutive sub-4.00 team ERAs, accomplishing that feat for just the second time in Rangers history (six straight, 1974-79). Prior to Maddux’s arrival, the Rangers had not posted an ERA lower than 4.00 since 1990. Over his first five seasons with Texas (2009-13), their team 3.94 ERA was Texas’ lowest ERA over a five-year span since 1981-85 (3.92). Maddux joined Texas after six years (2003-08) with the Brewers as pitching coach. There, he oversaw a Brewers staff that ranked second in the NL with a 3.85 ERA in 2008, the lowest mark by a Milwaukee club in 16 years, en-route to securing their first postseason berth in 26 years. Maddux served as the pitching coach for Houston’s Double-A Round Rock from 2000-02. As a Major Leaguer, Maddux was 39-37 with a 4.05 ERA in 472 games (48 starts) over 15 seasons with Philadelphia (1986-89), Los Angeles (1990, 1999), San Diego (1991-92), New York Mets (1993-94), Pittsburgh (1995), Boston (1995-96), Seattle (1997), Montreal (1998-99), and Houston (2000).

Schu, 53, returns to the Nationals for his third full season as the Major League hitting coach, his sixth with the organization. Schu, whose resume includes 18 seasons as a hitting coach and a nine-year playing career, oversaw a 2015 Nationals offense that ranked among NL teams in runs scored (3rd, 703), home runs (T3rd, 177) and slugging percentage (5th .403), as well as the emergence of NL MVP Bryce Harper. Schu, who was elevated to the Major League coaching staff on July 23, 2013, began the 2013 season as the Nationals’ Minor League Hitting Coordinator, a role he’d been in since 2010. Prior to the Nationals, Schu spent 12 years with the Diamondbacks, including portions of four seasons (2004, 2007-09) as Arizona’s MLB hitting coach. Schu hit .246 with 41 home runs and 134 RBI in 580 MLB games with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, California and Montreal.

Lopes, 70, returns to the Nationals as the team’s first base coach, a post he held during the 2006 season. The 2016 season will mark the 30th as a Major League coach for Lopes, who spent the past five seasons in the same position for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A highly-regarded baserunning instructor, Lopes was instrumental in improving the Dodgers’ running game. Since 2011, a Dodger has ranked in the top 10 in stolen bases three times, and the 2011 Dodgers posted a 75.9 stolen base percentage, the team’s second-best mark since moving to L.A. in 1958. Prior to joining the Dodgers, Lopes spent four seasons (2007-10) as the first base coach and outfield/baserunning instructor for the Philadelphia Phillies, appearing in the postseason all four years and winning a World Series ring in 2008. While with Philadelphia, Lopes coached current Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, helping him achieve back-to-back 20 stolen base seasons (2008, 2009) and an 88 percent (60-for-68) stolen base percentage. In each of his four seasons the Phillies posted the best stolen base percentage in MLB, including the best mark in MLB history in 2007 (87.9 %). In 2008, the Phillies also led the NL and tied for the MLB lead with 36 outfield assists. Lopes served previously as the first base coach in San Diego (1995-1999 and 2003-2005), Baltimore (1992-1994) and Texas (1988-1991), and skippered the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000-02. A 16-year Major Leaguer, Lopes’ playing career included stops in Los Angeles (1972-81), Oakland (1982-84), Chicago (1984-86, Cubs) and Houston (1986-87). Lopes appeared in four World Series, including a World Series Championship in 1981, as well as four consecutive All-Star Games (1978-81).

Henley, 42, returns for his third season as Washington’s third base coach and his 23rd season with the Montreal/Washington franchise. Henley, who has coached in the Nationals’ system for 11 years, served as the Nationals Minor League field coordinator from 2010-13 and spent four seasons (2006-09) as catching coordinator, as well as manager of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals. Henley guided the GCL Nationals to a league championship in 2009, posting a 36-19 mark before going a perfect 3-0 in the playoffs. He also served managerial posts in Washington’s system with Single-A Potomac (2005), Single-A Savannah (2004) and the GCL Expos (2003). Henley was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft and made his MLB debut in 1998.

Jones, 40, returns to the MLB ranks as the Nationals’ assistant hitting coach. A veteran of 10 Major League seasons, Jones most recently worked in 2014 as the hitting coach of San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate El Paso Chihuahuas. It was his third season as a coach in San Diego’s system after serving the 2013 season in the same capacity with Double-A San Antonio. Jones joined the Padres in 2012 as the hitting coach at Single-A Fort Wayne. Selected in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins, Jones enjoyed time with Minnesota, (1999-2005), the Chicago Cubs (2006-07), where he played under Baker, Detroit (2008) and Florida (2008). He hit .277 with 255 doubles, 19 triples, 165 home runs, 630 RBI, 632 runs scored and 82 stolen bases in 1,302 games.

Firova, 59, joins the Nationals after more than 20 years of managing and coaching in the Mexican League. He most recently worked as a coach at the Pericos de Puebla Baseball Academy and for the past two seasons, he managed the Piratas de Campeche, earning postseason berths in 2014 and 2015. Firova’s most successful managerial stint came with the Tigres de Mexico City, where he won three Mexican League championships (1997, 2000, 2001) during his eight seasons (1995-2002) as manager. Firova was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the second round of the 1980 amateur draft and made his Major League debut with the Mariners during the 1981 season. He also appeared in the Major Leagues with Seattle in 1982 and Cleveland in 1988. Firova played 13 professional seasons with Seattle, Kansas City, Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs, before joining the Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo as a coach in 1992.

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