With the Nationals offense lacking throughout almost the entirety of the 2011 season, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was asked Saturday for his evaluation of hitting coach Rick Eckstein. He did not hesitate to offer a glowing review and an emphatic vote of confidence for Eckstein.
“I think he’s one of the best hitting coaches in baseball,” Johnson said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s very detail oriented and I agree with his philosophy. I consider that I know a lot about hitting and I know a lot about teaching hitting. He’s certainly one of the best if not the best in baseball today. I will vouch for him to the nth degree.”
While several Nationals hitters have put together fine seasons (Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse the two most obvious examples), and others have quietly round into form at various points during the season, the Nationals as a unit have struggled offensively. They are the owners of the third-worst batting average in the National League (.242) and the fourth-worst on-base percentage (.309). While they are above the league average in home runs, hitting 130 thus far this season, they have the least amount of actual hits of any team in the NL and the third-fewest doubles.
That said, Johnson made it clear he does not find that to be a reflection of Eckstein — who is extremely well-thought of in the organization.
“I work closely with him,” Johnson said. “We have conversations about every hitter in the lineup. The job for a manager and all my hitting coaches over the years is when he is not getting his message across, I come in and maybe say it a different way but I’m saying the same thing. I love Rick Eckstein. I think he’s doing an outstanding job and as far as I’m concerned he’s got a great future.”
– Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez was back on the active roster for the first time in almost two full months on Saturday, activated from the disabled list and putting eight long weeks with a strained right oblique behind him.
“That’s what rehab is for,” Rodriguez said when asked if he’d be ready to play tonight if asked. “I’m happy that everything went away. I’ll just keep doing my work and I’ll be ready to play again.”
That said, Johnson said he would not use Rodriguez Saturday night.
“One of my rules is you’ve got to go through a full workout and I’ve got to see them do it, see them run around,” Johnson said. “I love reports, I love reading them all but I trust my eyes better than I trust a lot of reports.”
The Nationals did not take on-field batting practice on Saturday due to a fan meet and greet during that time period on the warning track.
– Laynce Nix, who suffered a right groin strain Thursday night in Atlanta, said Saturday that he was feeling better and didn’t expect the injury to hamper him much by the start of next week. Nix hasn’t been doing anything while he rests the injured area for a few days, but he doesn’t fear that it will become something more than just a strain.
– In order to add Saturday night’s starter Tom Milone to the 40-man and active roster, the Nationals moved first baseman Adam LaRoche to the 60-day disabled list. LaRoche, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in June, still expects to be healthy and ready by spring training.