Results tagged ‘ Rick Eckstein ’
Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner will be blogging throughout the 2010 MLB Winter Meetings, giving Nats fans a unique perspective of the goings-on in Orlando. Check back often for the latest updates.
Good afternoon, Nats fans.
As we begin Day 2 of MLB’s Winter Meetings, I first want to clear up a misconception which we are experiencing first hand this week. Florida does not enjoy a year-round tropical climate. It’s unseasonably frigid down here this week, actually dipping to the low 30s overnight. Last night Mike Rizzo did a live interview on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight outdoor set, and it felt more like we were at Disney’s Blizzard Beach than the resort’s pool area.
One of the best parts about the Winter Meetings is the opportunity to spend time with Mike Rizzo’s baseball staff, analyzing where our organization stands and hearing what they think about available players on our radar. Mike has assembled some of baseball’s top talent evaluators on his staff. While talk at the Winter Meetings always seems to start with free agent signings and trades, being around the likes of Roy Clark, Kris Kline, Bill Singer, Kasey McKeon, Deric Ladnier, Davey Johnson, Jay Robertson, Bob Schaefer, Bob Boone and Phil Rizzo (Mike Rizzo’s dad, also a longtime baseball scout who serves on our staff) really gets me excited for next season’s First-Year Player Draft. All great baseball teams are established with a strong foundation that’s built through the draft and player development, and Mike Rizzo – who is considered one of baseball’s elite amateur talent evaluators in his own right – has an outstanding staff in place to continue to ensure successful drafts.
Next June, we will again have an outstanding opportunity to make an impact via the draft. We have 2 first-round picks – 6th and 23rd overall – and a sandwich pick between the first and 2nd rounds. The 23rd overall and sandwich picks were secured when Adam Dunn signed with the White Sox as a Type ‘A’ free agent. We did lose our 2nd round pick when we signed Jayson Werth, but we will still have 3 of the Draft’s top 40 picks and our folks are saying this year’s draft class is especially strong.
On a non-baseball topic…As many of you know, I really enjoy visiting stadiums and arenas all over the country. This morning I had the opportunity to tour Amway Center, the brand new home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. What a spectacular venue. It is the best NBA arena that I have seen. Congrats to the entire Magic organization for a job well done.
Also, our thoughts and prayers go out to a member of the Nationals family, hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who tomorrow will be donating a kidney to his older brother Ken. Rick is a selfless person who always puts his family and his work before himself. I have found him to be one of the classiest people I have met in the game of baseball, and we wish both Rick and Ken a speedy recovery. Read more about this story here:
Enjoy your day, and stay tuned for more…
Bryce Harper has been labeled the Lebron James of baseball. So in case you didn’t watch “The Decision: Part II,” Bryce Harper is taking his talents to the desert and will join the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. It was a decision–influenced by Harper’s talent–and made by General Manager Mike Rizzo and his staff because they didn’t want him to be idle for the next two months after he held own in the Instructional League. Yeah, there are drawbacks but Rizzo believes the benefits will easily outweigh the possible cost: struggling.
Harper proved he can play in the Florida Instructional League. He batted.319 (15-for-47) with four doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBI and seven walks. Harper–who led Washington’s Instructional League squad in homers, RBI and walks–posted .407 on-base and .702 slugging percentages en route to a stellar 1.110 OPS (OBP+SLG).
Now, this isn’t the Instructional League–the AFL offers the top-talent that is knocking on the door of the Majors–but Rizzo isn’t concerned.
“There is a high level of baseball going on,” Rizzo said. “Two months of this guy working out, practicing and playing will only benefit him. He is going to be fine in the [AFL].”
To ease Harper into the action they will restrict his playing time. He will join his new club on Tuesday as a member of the Scorpions’ Taxi Squad. Translation: he will work out, travel and dress normally as do members of Scottsdale’s active roster but he will only be eligible to participate in games twice a week, usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Harper will also be eligible to replace Nationals farmhands on Scottsdale’s active roster due to injury.
Part of the incentive to send Harper to Arizona is that he will be able to work extensively with Manager Randy Knorr, considered one of the best teachers in the Nationals organization, to learn the intricacies of right field. He will also work with Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein to refine his swing.
“He’s 17 years old and he doesn’t even turn 18 until Saturday,” Rizzo said. “He is very excited. What I had to decide on was: ‘Is he going to be over his head in the AFL?’ It’s a very advanced league, but I think he is going to handle it. It’s going to be very valuable to him.”
While this may seem like it is putting him on a fast track to the Majors, it isn’t. He is still expected to start the season in Single-A.
“He is going to A-ball, make no mistake about it,” Rizzo added. “He is not going to be a rushed guy. We are going to let his performance and development dictate where this guy goes.”
In other news not Harper, here are a few Nationals farmhands who performed at high levels during the just-completed Instructional League: outfielder Tyler Moore (.550, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 11 RBI), catcher Sandy Leon (.429), outfielder Eury Perez (.357, 3 stolen bases), infielder Steven Souza (.345, 4 doubles, 2 home runs, 4 RBI), righthander A.J. Morris (0.00 ERA in 4 games, 7 strikeouts in 5.0 innings), lefthander Sammy Solis (0.00 ERA and 9 strikeouts in 9.0 innings spanning 3 games), righthander Ryan Mattheus (1.35 ERA and 6 strikeouts in 6.2 innings) and lefthander Robbie Ray (2.53 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 10.2 innings spanning 4 games).
The Nationals finalized their coaching staff today. Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, Pitching Coach Steve McCatty and Third Base Coach Pat Listach will return in the same roles in 2010. The club also named John McLaren bench coach, Jim Lett bullpen coach and Dan Radison first base coach.
Eckstein returns for a second season in Washington. He played an instrumental part in reshaping the offense and it showed significant gains in 2009 in runs per game (+0.40 per game), home runs (+39), batting average (+.007), on-base percentage (+.014), slugging percentage (+.033) and OPS (+.047) compared to the previous season.
McCatty was the Nationals Triple-A pitching coach for four seasons before being summoned to Washington on June 2. McCatty employed numerous pre-existing relationships with Nationals pitchers to help his staff post an ERA exactly one run better than that recorded in the season’s first two months (5.69 ERA from Opening Day-May 31, 4.69 ERA from June 2 through season’s end).
Listach will return for a second season as Nationals third base coach. Last season, Listach’s judgment saw only 11 Nationals thrown out at home plate on non force-outs, a figure bettered by only the Cardinals (eight) in MLB. With added responsibilities as the Nationals infield instructor, Listach had a hand in Ryan Zimmerman earning his first career Rawlings Gold Glove.
McLaren, 58, will draw on 22 seasons of Big League coaching experience, including a stint as Mariners manager for portions of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He replaced Mike Hargrove as Seattle’s manager on July 2, 2007. While skippering the Mariners, McLaren hired Riggleman as his bench coach in 2008.
McLaren worked on Lou Piniella’s staff for 15 seasons, and also enjoyed stewardships under Mike Hargrove, Cito Gaston, Jimy Williams and Joe Morgan. He has experienced five postseasons, including four division titles (Toronto in 1989 and Seattle in ’95, ’97 and 2001). McLaren spent the 2009 campaign as a Rays special assignment scout. He also served as Team USA’s bench coach during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006.
Lett, 58, will draw on 15 seasons of Major League coaching experience, 11 spent as a bench coach with the Reds, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Pirates. He served as the Dodgers bullpen coach from 2001-04, where he worked alongside Riggleman, who was Jim Tracy’s bench coach at the time.
Lett joins the Nationals after spending the previous two years coaching in Milwaukee’s Minor League system. Lett has worked in professional baseball for each of the last 35 seasons as a player, coach, manager or front office executive. Lett is also a highly respected catching instructor.
The 59 year-old Radison begins his third tour with Riggleman, as the two worked together during Riggleman’s managerial stays in San Diego and Chicago (NL). Outside of his stints with the Cubs and Padres, Radison has managed, coached or scouted for the Yankees, Cardinals and Mets organizations from 1984-2006.
He spent the previous three seasons as the Cardinals Minor League Hitting Instructor. While there, Radison worked closely with Eckstein, and helped Rick Ankiel (as a hitter), Skip Schumaker and Colby Rasmus graduate to St. Louis.