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Rizzo: Schu returning, Jones hired as asst. hitting coach

Nov 18, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT

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Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo formally announced three more members of Dusty Baker’s coaching staff Wednesday, with Rick Schu returning as hitting coach, Jacque Jones hired as assistant hitting coach and Chris Speier hired to serve as either bench coach or third base coach.

Along with the previously announced hiring of pitching coach Mike Maddux and first base coach Davey Lopes, the Nationals have only two remaining openings on Baker’s staff: a bullpen coach and either a third base coach or bench coach.

For now, Schu is the lone holdover from Matt Williams’ 2015 staff. The 53-year-old former big-league infielder has been Nationals’ hitting coach since July 2013, when he replaced Rick Eckstein in midseason. A preacher of an aggressive hitting approach, particularly vs. fastballs, Schu has been popular with Nationals batters, who ranked third in the NL in runs scored this season despite fielding their entire healthy lineup only twice in 162 games.

“We think that Rick’s done an admirable job the last couple years,” Rizzo said. “He’s had a great rapport with some of our star players. He was highly recommended by the players to keep him. I’ve always appreciated what he’s done. With a lot of injuries that we’ve had over the last couple years, we’re still right up there with runs scored and a lot of offensive categories.”

The addition of Jones gives the Nationals an assistant hitting coach for the first time. The club’s seventh coach the last two seasons had been Mark Weidemaier, who handled defensive positioning and advanced scouting reports, but Speier will now handle those duties in his position, opening up a spot for a second hitting coach.

Rizzo said he felt like help was needed in that area, as many other MLB clubs have concluded in recent years.

“The hitting coach’s job is such a labor-intensive job,” Rizzo said. “The players are swinging more and more and more. Really the assistant hitting coach is the guy you rarely see, because he’s in the tunnel from the second inning til the end of the game preparing hitters to hit in the game.”

Jones, 40, only retired from a big-league playing career with the Twins, Cubs, Tigers and Marlins in 2008, making him close in age with plenty of current veterans. The former outfielder, who played for Baker in Chicago, had been serving as the Padres’ Class AAA hitting coach.

“We felt it was a good time to hire a really good, young-perspective coach in Jacque Jones,” Rizzo said. “He was a favorite of Dusty Baker. In talking to him, he’s a really high-energy guy.”

Speier, 65, is a longtime confidant of Baker, having served as his third base coach with the Cubs and then as his bench coach with the Reds. (He briefly took over as Cincinnati’s interim manager in 2012 after Baker suffered a mini-stroke.) The former big-league infielder will be in charge of the Nationals’ defensive placements in addition to the official title he winds up taking on the staff. That decision will depend on which other coaches are added in the next few weeks.

“Chris has been next to Dusty in the dugout before,” Rizzo said. “Chris also really likes being in the action at third base. Dusty’s going to decide where these guys fit best.”

Asked if there’s a chance any other members of the 2015 staff could still return, Rizzo said it was “a possibility.” Randy Knorr (senior assistant for player development), Bob Henley (senior advisor for player development) and Matt LeCroy (Class AA manager) have already accepted new positions within the organization, but it’s possible one or two could return on Baker’s big-league staff.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:45 PM

    Off topic, but Darren O’Day reportedly seeking four-year deal, in the $28-36m range. Do you commit that much money to a 33-year-old reliever?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:46 PM

      Sorry…should have read ‘that much money for that length of time’

      • jd - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:57 PM

        I would be very leery giving that kind money and this many years to any reliever especially one with so much mileage on his arm. I’d pass.

    • Doc - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:50 PM

      No!

    • letswin3 - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:55 PM

      Ummmmmmm ………

    • tcostant - Nov 18, 2015 at 5:05 PM

      Sure sign him up.

    • hersheyman - Nov 18, 2015 at 5:12 PM

      Absolutely. O’Day’s sidearm delivery has little wear-and-tear on an arm. Look at Hoyt Wilhelm and others. Just what the doctor ordered.

    • hersheyman - Nov 18, 2015 at 5:14 PM

      Absolutely. O’Day’s sidearm delivery has little wear-and-tear on an arm. Look at Hoyt Wilhelm and others. A perfect fit.

  2. Doc - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    Jones should be able to have an impact with LH hitters, who need their own hitting coach.

  3. Sonny G 10 - Nov 18, 2015 at 4:03 PM

    I always thought the Nats should have two hitting coaches back when Rick Eckstein was fired. I’m glad the Nats have come around to that way of thinking.

  4. Whack-A-Mule - Nov 18, 2015 at 4:27 PM

    Nats are in the throes of a youth movement.
    🙂
    Speier is a year younger than D.Baker.
    (combined ages Baker+Speier=131 yrs.)

    That represents awe-inspiring, invaluable major league experience
    (46 years for Baker, 45 for Speier=91 years between the two.)

    (And it is clearly for the best to have replaced all of the medical staff.)

  5. tcostant - Nov 18, 2015 at 5:02 PM

    Glad will be ready with a guy to step in, when Schu gets fired….

  6. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    So, Bud Black doesn’t get the Dodger’s job, but now ends up in the Angel’s front office probably as a special assistant. Gee, I wonder how much dough an Angel’s front office special assistant makes? More than a manager? I’m so glad the Nats didn’t hire that guy. I never was in for jumping into a black hole.

    • natsred4dndc - Nov 18, 2015 at 6:01 PM

      Every new bit of information has it looking more and more like the deal with Black fell through because of his issues, not because of things the Nats did or didn’t do. More evidence here that he (or the wife) wanted to stay in So. Cal.

      • philipd763 - Nov 19, 2015 at 2:42 PM

        Bud Black lives in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, one of the most upscale communities in the country. It’s located in North San Diego County and not far from Orange County, where the Angels play. Why would he want to trade some of the best weather in the whole world for dismal east coast humid weather in Washington, DC???

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