The Nationals finalized their coaching staff for the 2012 season Thursday evening when they promoted Triple-A manager Randy Knorr to the major league coaching staff as the bench coach for manager Davey Johnson.
“I’m excited,” Knorr said in a phone interview. “Getting the chance to work with Davey and (Nationals general manager) Mike Rizzo and the rest of the coaching staff in September was great. I really liked being up there with those guys and I worked with those players for so long in the minor leagues that it was really fun watching them play at that level.”
Knorr, who spent the last seven seasons serving as a coach or manager at every level in the Nationals organization, joins the major league coaching staff for the third time after two stints as the team’s bullpen coach in 2006 and 2009. His mind and his passion, however, has always been geared more toward that of a manager and it was with that in mind that Rizzo extended an opportunity to Knorr to return to managing in 2010 in the minor leagues.
Knorr served as the Nationals’ Triple-A manager for the 2011 season but also managed three seasons with Single-A Potomac, Single-A Savannah, the organization’s Arizona Fall League team in 2010 and at Double-A Harrisburg that same year. He led Potomac to the Carolina League championship in 2008.
As a result of his extensive work within the Nationals’ organization, Knorr has worked with the majority of the Nationals youthful major league roster and is extremely well-thought of among the players who’ve come through the system for his no-nonsense style. Among his pupils are infielders Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, pitchers John Lannan, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmmeran and Ross Detwiler.
The Nationals bench coach position was filled by Pat Corrales after the resignation of manager Jim Riggleman and reassignment of John McLaren following a brief three-game stint as interim manager. The 70-year-old Corrales, however, decided to return to an advisory role after the 2011 season and the Nationals made it clear they were looking for a bench coach who could be considered — along with third base coach Bo Porter and first base coach Trent Jewett — as a possible successor to Johnson.
“I just think it’s gives them a comfort level and a chance to see what I can do with (the players) at that level,” Knorr said. “I’d like to think of it as the next step but just the fact that I’m up there and in that position, I think it’s a good opportunity.”
Knorr’s name was among the first to be mentioned when it was announced that the team would have a bench coach opening but after an initial buzz about the position, Knorr hadn’t heard anything official from the Nationals and began preparing to return as the manager for Triple-A Syracuse. He was reached Wednesday night by Rizzo, though, about the bench coach position and things progressed from there.
Many of the current Nationals credit Knorr, a 19-year MLB veteran catcher, with helping them mature — both as people and players — and he’s a respected presence in the clubhouse.
“I think that (experience in the system) probably put me on the top of the list because I have had (those players) and have a good relationship with most of them,” Knorr said. “I feel like I can get the most out of them.”
Porter and Jewett will also return, along with bullpen coach Jim Lett, pitching coach Steve McCatty and hitting coach Rick Eckstein. This will be the fourth season on the staff for both McCatty and Eckstein and the third for Lett. Porter and Jewett will be returning for their second seasons.
This move also gives the Nationals a vacancy at Triple-A. There was no immediate word who would take Knorr’s place in that position.