Results tagged ‘ Steve McCatty ’

Nationals announce return of entire coaching staff

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by Amanda Comak

On the heels of Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams taking home the 2014 BBWAA National League Manager of the Year award, the Nationals announced Wednesday morning that they will welcome back all of their coaches from the 2014 staff.

In keeping bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and defensive coordinator/advance coach Mark Weidemaier in the fold for 2015, Williams will have stability and continuity on his staff as he enters his second year at the helm.

McCatty, the longest-tenured member of the Nationals’ Major League staff, returns for his seventh season. Knorr returns for his fourth season as the Nationals’ bench coach, and sixth year on the staff, while Tarasco and Schu will begin their third seasons on the coaching staff. Henley, LeCroy and Weidemaier will all be back for their second campaigns.

Six of the Nationals’ seven coaches had experience coaching in Washington’s system before earning their Major League assignments, making the Nationals’ an exceptionally “homegrown” staff.

This marks the first time since 2007-2008 that the Nationals have returned their entire coaching staff in successive seasons.

Running Men: A Nationals coaching staff routine

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by Amanda Comak

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Inside the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, the music blared. High-fives and fist bumps were exchanged all over the room. Positive energy pumped through the locker stalls.

A long west coast trip had gotten off to a terrific start for the Washington Nationals with five wins in their first six games, including three straight against the San Francisco Giants — who came into the series playing better than any team in the National League.

Inside the manager’s office, Matt Williams smiled, and then groaned. Mere hours separated the Nationals from their next game, a 12:45 p.m. start locally, and then the next city on the trip beckoned.

“We have to run tomorrow,” Williams said late that night, massaging his left calf. “We’re killing ourselves.”

The “we” to which the Nationals’ manager referred was the coaching staff. And the runs, between 30-40 minutes or three to four miles of torture, well, they’ve become quite a routine among the Nationals’ coaches.

“It’s entirely superstitious,” Williams said in early July. “If we take a day off and we don’t win, then we definitely have to run the next day. If we run and we play like we did (in a 13-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on July 5), then we have to run the exact same route.”

Williams, who used to run with the Diamondbacks coaching staff in previous years, brought the daily runs to the Nationals when he took over as manager. They’re all named, and folks of all fitness levels are welcome. They won’t leave any man behind, Williams said, but “we keep it sane, too.”

In D.C., they have three main runs: The River Run, featuring views of the Anacostia and the Potomac Rivers, the Capitol Run, which is up to and around the Capitol Building, and the Power Run, a jaunt to the Capitol Building, by the Supreme Court and past the Library of Congress.

It’s not hard to see how that one got its name.

“That’s the power of our country, right there,” Williams said.

But the road trips provide opportunities for other routes. Williams ticks them off with obvious enjoyment.

Attachment-1In San Francisco, they have the Embarcadero Run. In San Diego, it’s the Midway Run or the Airport Run (“Depending on how we’re feeling,” the manager explains). In Philadelphia, they leave from the hotel and do the Rocky Run. In Miami, the South Beach Run. St. Louis features the Arch Run, and in Milwaukee, from Miller Park, it’s the Graveyard Run. The list goes on. And everywhere the Nationals visit, they’ll have at least one running route to tour.

Williams, while the most enthusiastic about the runs, said the coaches have mostly jumped on board. It’s a time for them to build camaraderie and bond, while also (hopefully) bettering their own health.  Williams singled out third base coach Bobby Henley as one who has really taken to the runs and improved. Plus, there’s the aforementioned superstitions.

“They don’t gripe,” Williams said, smiling. “I hear little snippets, but no griping. Secretly I think they like it.”

But do they really?

“I absolutely hate ‘em,” said bench coach Randy Knorr. “But I go.”

What to Watch for: 8.13.13

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San Francisco Giants (52-65) vs. Washington Nationals (57-60)

LHP Madison Bumgarner (11-7, 2.75) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (7-3, 3.52)

The Nationals host the defending World Champions for the opening tilt of a three-game set. Washington swept San Francisco at home last season, going 5-1 overall in the season series. In honor of International Left-hander’s Day, tonight’s pitching matchup includes Major League Baseball’s two winningest southpaws over the last two seasons: Gio Gonzalez (28 wins in ‘12-13) and Madison Bumgarner (27).

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Denard Span CF

2. Anthony Rendon 2B

3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B

4. Jayson Werth RF

5. Ian Desmond SS

6. Adam LaRoche 1B

7. Wilson Ramos C

8. Scott Hairston LF

9. Gio Gonzalez LHP

99 PITCHES, NO PROBLEM

Stephen Strasburg tossed the first shutout of his career in Washington’s 6-0 home win on Sunday vs. Philadelphia, becoming the first Nationals pitcher to post a shutout at the Phillies expense. Strasburg (99 pitches) became just the fourth National to toss a shutout in less than 100 pitches (also: Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Pedro Astacio).

START ME UP

Steve McCatty’s starting staff is 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA (16 ER/57.1 IP) in nine August contests to date. In those nine games, the starting staff has yielded just one homer while posting a stingy .218 batting average against and an admirable strikeout to walk rate of 3.73.

THE POWER OF 3 (AND 5)

When scoring three or more runs this year, the Nationals are 51-14 (.785). Additionally, when the Nationals tally five or more runs, they are a robust 41-4. Conversely, when plating two or fewer runs, Washington is just 6-46 (.115).

What to Watch for: 5.8.13

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Detroit Tigers (19-11) vs. Washington Nationals (17-15)

RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 1.82) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (5-1, 1.64)

Following a two-day break – after playing 17 games in 17 days – the Nationals return home to take on the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers in a short, two-game set. Familiar foe and former Marlin Anibal Sanchez matches up with Jordan Zimmermann, who shares the National League lead with five wins.

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Span CF

2. Desmond SS

3. Harper RF

4. Zimmerman 3B

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Moore LF

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Suzuki C

9. Zimmermann RHP

CATT’S MEOW

In 13 games dating to April 23, Steve McCatty’s starting staff has fashioned a 2.96 ERA (28 ER/85.0 IP) thanks in part to a 3.4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .218 batting average against.

THE SERIES

The Nationals, since their arrival in the Nation’s Capital, have never beaten the Tigers, going 0-6. The Nationals have posted wins against each of Major League Baseball’s other 28 clubs. This is the Tigers first visit to Nationals Park, although Detroit did sweep a three-game set in D.C., June 15-17, 2007 at RFK.

THE AMERICAN WAY

The Nationals are 21-15 in interleague play since the beginning of 2011. The corresponding .583 winning percentage paces National League clubs (tied for fifth in MLB) in that 2+ year span, during which Washington is 11-7 (.611) at Nationals Park when facing AL competition.

National Det Joins National Team

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It’s been one heck of an offseason for Ross Detwiler. That trend continued Tuesday, as the Nationals starter was extended and accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

“The little kid in me wanted to say yes right away, without thinking it through,” said Detwiler, who immediately took the offer to manager Davey Johnson and pitching coach Steve McCatty to get their nod of approval.

Both coaches encouraged his participation. Nationals EVP of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo also spoke Tuesday, throwing his support behind Detwiler’s decision to play.

Detwiler will set aside his Nationals gear to play for Team USA.

Detwiler will set aside his Nationals gear to play for Team USA.

“This will be a good step in Ross’ developmental curve,” Rizzo explained. “These kinds of opportunities don’t come along very often, and we think it’s vitally important that Team USA is well represented.”

This will not be Detwiler’s first stint in a Team USA jersey, as he also pitched as an amateur for the 2006 squad that won the championship in Cuba. He said that his ring from that tournament still rests on his nightstand at his offseason home in the St. Louis suburbs as one of his proudest career accomplishments.

Ever since his strong performance in Game 4 of the NLDS last October, the left-handed starter has been whisked in one direction, then another, his life a whirlwind of activity. First, the 26-year-old married his college sweetheart Keri on December 1 and the two took to Hawaii for their honeymoon. However, before they could even return from that trip, the next big event in Detwiler’s life presented itself.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey – who had met Detwiler when he threw out ceremonial first pitches twice during the 2012 season – personally invited the pitcher on his USO holiday tour. Faced with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Detwiler jumped at the chance, departing the warm, sunny beaches of Hawaii for the war-torn middle east.

As the calendar flipped to January, Detwiler’s newly minted Twitter handle earned the nod as the most creative in baseball. Now, just as he was settling into his first week of Spring Training, the opportunity to represent his country has come knocking once more.

Detwiler compared the honor of the USO and Team USA invitations, joking that perhaps the highlights of his year were coming a little earlier than he expected.

“I feel like I’m peaking a little early,” he joked. “But it’s kind of the same feeling, being able to wear ‘USA’ across my chest and represent my country.”

Detwiler will join Team USA in Arizona for the first round of games in the first week of March.

A Week Off the Field

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Recently, the Nationals played a total of 35 games in just a 34-day span, a brutal stretch of the schedule with little to no opportunity for rest. With only one off day and a pair of doubleheaders during that span, the team still managed to go 24-11 over that stretch, all while finding time to make a number of off-the-field appearances around the Washington D.C. area. Here is just a sampling of a few of the events players participated in over the last week that the team was in town.

Shortly after the Nationals completed an 8-2, three-city road trip in Houston, Arizona and San Francisco, the team boarded their flight back across the country to Washington. Their flight home landed after 2:00 a.m., and players did not get back to the ballpark, then home, until after 3:00. Nevertheless, Bryce Harper – on the first off day after that aforementioned 34-day stretch – arrived at Fairfax High School before 10:00 a.m. that same morning to help out at a free baseball clinic for 200 local area youth, including 50 from the Greater Washington Urban Baseball League. In addition to making a donation to the league, he also took the time to share hitting and fielding tips and throw some batting practice to the kids.

Bryce Harper poses with 200 local area youth at a baseball camp.

On the morning of August 18, following a 6-4 win over the New York Mets the night before, the Nationals coaching staff provided instruction to a group of 150 local children comprised of military families and Prince George’s County youth at the Medstar Health Youth Baseball Clinic at Nationals Park. The kids had a chance to pitch in the Nationals bullpen with Nationals Pitching Coach Steve McCatty, hit in the batting cage with Nationals Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, and take part in outfield drills. After a morning of baseball on the field, relief pitcher Ryan Mattheus stopped by during lunch to meet everyone and sign autographs.

Ryan Mattheus signs autographs after a clinic at Nationals Park.

Finally, on August 20, after the Nationals had waited out a two-and-a-half hour rain delay the previous day against the Mets, winning the series’ rubber game, 5-2, Ryan Zimmerman made a visit to Children’s National Medical Center. In addition to visiting with children being treated for cancer and life-threatening blood disease, he autographed baseballs and hats and hand-delivered pizza and cupcakes. Zimmerman returned to the ballpark in time to reach base four times in Washington’s crucial, 13-inning win over the division-rival Braves that evening.

Ryan Zimmerman recently visited Children’s National Medical Center between games.

The Nationals enjoyed a rare off day at home Thursday before entering the final stretch of the regular season that has them slated to play 38 games in 41 days beginning Friday in Philadelphia. But despite the marathon, even the best team in baseball has found time to give back away from the diamond.

What to Watch For: 8/6

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Washington Nationals (65-43) vs. Houston Astros (36-73)

RHP Edwin Jackson (6-7, 3.57) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 5.77)

The Nationals took three-of-four from the Astros when the teams met in D.C. in April, and will look to continue their winning ways after doing the same to Miami this past weekend. Led by the red hot Adam LaRoche – who has gone 23-for-52 (.442) with four walks, seven home runs, 10 runs scored and 16 RBI in his last 14 games – Washington has won four of five and 12 of its last 16, holding a 3.0-game lead over the Atlanta Braves entering play Monday night.

NATIONALS LINEUP

1. Espinosa SS

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. Morse LF

5. LaRoche 1B

6. Werth RF

7. Suzuki C

8. Lombo 2B

9. Jackson RHP

EDWIN IN SPACE CITY

Edwin Jackson looks to get Washington’s three-city, 10-game roadtrip off to a good start tonight at Minute Maid Park in Houston.  Jackson has earned at least one win in 21 Major League ballparks, but Minute Maid is not one of them. He sports a 4.55 ERA in six career games (five starts) against the Astros. When pitching against Houston, his team is 5-1. Jackson last faced the Astros on April 19 in D.C. and took the loss in an 11-4 setback.

NATS HURLERS DON’T DIG THE LONGBALL

Nationals pitchers are currently riding a string of 49.0 consecutive innings in which they have not allowed a home run. Washington last allowed a long ball when Jimmy Rollins and Nate Schierholtz hit homers in consecutive at-bats in the fifth inning on Wednesday at Nationals Park. Washington’s streak of not allowing a homer in five straight games also matches a season high set twice previously: April 16-20 and April 10-14. Last season, from September 5-16, Steve McCatty’s pitchers strung together an 11-game homerless streak.

MICHAEL MORSE(L) 

Michael Morse has hit safely in a career-high 14 straight games, going 19-for-58 (.328) with two walks, three doubles, three homers, nine runs scored and 10 RBI. Morse’s team season-high 14-game run is the second-longest current hitting streak in the National League (Miami’s Jose Reyes is riding a 24-game streak). The last National to register a hit streak of this length or longer was Ryan Zimmerman, who posted a 19-gamer from July 22-August 11, 2011.

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What to Watch for: 6/17

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New York Yankees (39-25) vs. Washington Nationals (38-25)

RHP Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02)

The Nationals and Yankees take the field for the series finale this afternoon at Nationals Park. While both bullpens must recover quickly from yesterday’s 14-inning affair, Edwin Jackson is looking to give the Nats the proper start they need to defeat New York. Happy Father’s Day!

NATIONALS LINEUP:

1. Lombardozzi LF

2. Harper CF

3. Zimmerman 3B

4. LaRoche 1B

5. Morse RF

6. Desmond SS

7. Espinosa 2B

8. Solano C

9. Jackson RHP

AVOIDING THE BROOMS

The Nationals will try to avoid their first home sweep of 2012 today. To date, the Nationals have been swept twice this season, both of which came on the road (at Los Angeles, at Miami). In fact, the last team to sweep the Nationals in D.C. was the Marlins, who won three times in three days July 26-28, 2011. While the Nats have dropped two straight, they have won six of eight and eight of their last 11 contests.

JUNE PITCHING BOON

During a 9-4 June, Steve McCatty’s starting rotation has yet to allow more than three runs in a game and has limited opposing teams to two runs or less ten times in 13 contests. In fact, as good as the starting staff has been (3.02 ERA, .218 batting average against) during June, the bullpen has performed better (2.82 ERA, .189 BAA).

DESMOND MATCHES CAREER HIGH

With his game-tying home run in the eighth inning yesterday, Ian Desmond matched his career-high with 10 home runs on the season. He also hit 10 in 2010, but did not hit his tenth until September 14th at Atlanta.

- FOLLOW YANKEES VS. NATIONALS LIVE -

You Complete Me: Another Look at Edwin Jackson’s Gem

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When Drew Stubbs singled home Miguel Cairo in the top of the second inning of Saturday’s Reds-Nats affair in Washington, it looked like this might finally be the day the offenses broke out and delivered a high-scoring game. Following consecutive extra-inning games, in which the two teams combined for just eight runs in 23 innings, the early sign of life seemed to indicate a shift, the 74-degree first pitch temperature and out-blowing breeze priming the afternoon for an offensive explosion.

Who knew in that moment, with the Reds still threatening to add on in the inning, that Cincinnati would not log another hit the rest of the afternoon against Nationals starter Edwin Jackson. The hard-throwing righty retired 22 of the final 23 batters he faced, polishing off a two-hit shutout by inducing a weak pop to shallow center field from Joey Votto, one of the most feared power hitters in the game.

In many ways, Edwin Jackson's performance Saturday was more impressive than his no-hitter.

Jackson is perhaps best known around the baseball world for his bizarre, 149-pitch no-hitter, which he threw with Arizona against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 25, 2010. He walked eight batters in that contest while striking out just six, but gutted out a marathon performance to earn his place in the baseball history books. In many ways, though, his performance on Saturday in front of 35,489 frenzied fans surpassed his no-no from 16 months prior.

First, there was that lone baserunner after the second inning, a four-pitch walk to Chris Heisey to open the eighth inning. As dominant as Jackson had been, there suddenly appeared to be a crack in the armor, the crowd that had given him multiple standing ovations quieted to a nervous murmur. Tyler Clippard scrambled to get warm in the bullpen as pitching coach Steve McCatty paced out to the mound for a chat. What did the coach have to say?

“It’s your game,” said Jackson, recounting McCatty’s pep talk after the game. “Just get these people out. Throw every pitch with conviction.”

Manager Davey Johnson, the lifelong baseball man, actually found himself nervous in the moment.

“When I’m seeing a gem and we need it, lights out, it makes me nervous,” Johnson said. “I usually don’t get nervous. But when you see something like that – he had a low pitch count, just a dominating game. From a manager’s standpoint, you don’t want anything to go wrong. You kind of protect against all contingencies.”

Jackson got the support he needed from Jesus Flores and the rest of the offense.

After all, even though Jackson was the only National who pitched on Saturday, this game meant something to everyone on the staff. Following those back-to-back extra-inning games, both bullpens were spent, leaving few options for the skippers. Perhaps the biggest number of the night was 92: the total number of pitches it took Jackson to finish what he started, a full 57 pitches fewer than his no-hitter.

Meanwhile, the offense did its part, responding when Jackson needed it to by tying the game in the bottom of the second. Jayson Werth – fresh off his game-winning hit in the fifth hour of the game the night prior – legged out the back end of a double play and eventually scored the game-tying run with two outs to level the score at one apiece. An inning later, Adam LaRoche came through again, following a walk to Danny Espinosa and a single from Ryan Zimmerman, with a two-run double into the right-center field gap. The Nationals would only add one more tally the rest of the way, but it was more than enough for Jackson.

After all, Jackson has had plenty of experience finishing off a masterpiece, going back again to his no-hitter in 2010. For all the grief he has received for that non-conventional feat, Jackson nevertheless got the outs he needed – all 27 of them – while pitching with just one run of cushion the entire game. And who, do you suppose, plated the lone run in that game? Why, Adam LaRoche, of course. His solo shot in the second inning was the lone score in a 1-0 game. Both players have looked very much at home, united once more in Washington in the season’s opening stretch.

2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics at Nationals Park

Last Saturday, the Nationals launched the 2011 Chevy Youth Baseball Clinics, a series of monthly clinics held at Nationals Park as part of the team’s efforts to increase participation in youth baseball and softball programs in the National Capital region.

Approximately 150 youth baseball and softball athletes from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia as well as local military children will be invited to take part in the free clinics, which feature hands-on instruction from Nationals coaches. In addition to taking part in drills on the field, in the batting cages and in the bullpen, participants will also enjoy Q&A sessions with the coaches in the Nationals dugout.

Saturday’s clinic was made available to children ranging from ages 5 to 12 from Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County. Participants could also sign up for the clinic through Chevy Motors.

Despite the soaring temperatures, the children in attendance were ready and willing to learn from the pros. The kids began their morning under the direction of assistant trainer Mike McGowan, who taught them how to properly stretch their muscles and offered tips on injury prevention.

The children were then divided into groups and rotated between stations led by coaches Pat Corrales, Rick Eckstein, Steve McCatty and Bo Porter.

In the batting cages, Eckstein offered tips on how to properly get into a hitting position and taught the same drills he uses with the Nationals. He stressed that baseball is a hard game.

“Hitting is arguably one of the toughest skills to do in all of sports and failure comes with that,” he said. “It’s learning to handle that failure so you can be successful. You can’t put your head down, you can’t pout, you can’t throw your helmet around.”

Byron Thompson, the sports coordinator for Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission of Prince George’s County, was excited to bring kids from his jurisdiction out to Nationals Park.

“These clinics give our kids realistic goals that they can see, hear, touch and smell. They get to see what a Major League Baseball player, coach, stadium and experience is all about,” Thompson said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids, who get time to interact with some players and maybe learn something their coaches didn’t get a chance to talk about at their level.”

Once the clinic wrapped up, the kids were treated to lunch in the Family Picnic Area, followed by a visit from Nationals All-Star pitcher Tyler Clippard, who signed autographs and posed for photos with clinic participants.

“It’s important to get these kids out here, to teach them various skills and get them involved in the game of baseball,” Clippard said. “I started playing at a young age and that’s what happened to me. It’s a great social environment that encourages team building, and hopefully many of these kids will grow to love the game as a result of these clinics.”

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