PHOENIX — When Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson made his way out of the clubhouse Sunday evening for the final time, his tenure in his current position ended. And with that ending comes uncertainty for Johnson’s coaches as well.
As the organization goes about beginning its search for the next manager, Johnson’s coaches will be in limbo.
Bench coach Randy Knorr and third base Trent Jewett are expected to be candidates for the managerial job, and should either of them get it there may be little change in the rest of the staff, which includes pitching coach Steve McCatty, bullpen coach Jim Lett, hitting coach Rick Schu and first base coach Tony Tarasco.
But a new person, a manager hired from outside the organization, may want a new group. And that could mean a large shakeup for a team that has dealt with some of the same coaches for several years.
“That’s up to Mike Rizzo and whoever they bring in,” McCatty said. “If he wants me back, I’d be really excited. If he feels he needs his own guy, that’s the nature of baseball. It would be disappointing if it worked out that way, but you never know until it happens. It’s what we do. It (stinks), but it’s what we have to deal with.”
McCatty has held his current position the longest of any coach on Johnson’s staff. Working with the organization since 2006, when he was the Triple-A pitching coach, McCatty assumed the major league job during the 2009 season and has kept it ever since. The staff — starters and relievers — has been transformed in that time into one of the game’s best.
And for many of the pitchers who’ve helped make that so, McCatty is indispensable.
“Cat has to come back,” said right-hander Tyler Clippard, arguably the most consistent eighth-inning reliever in the game. “If he doesn’t come back, there’s something wrong. He’s got to come back.
“(McCatty’s) been with me for a long time, so from a selfish perspective, it’s understandable that I would say that. But I think most importantly he’s built up a great pitching staff in the big leagues. We understand what he wants out of us and he understands what we want out of him. There’s no reason to change that. I feel like we’ve been pretty good.”
Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen and Drew Storen have all been under McCatty’s tutelage largely since they became major leaguers, and some even before that. It would be difficult for all parties to adjust if that relationship were to be altered.
“I don’t think you really know how much they mean (to you),” McCatty said. “You build up a lot of really good, long-lasting relationships. So it would mean a lot. Like I say, being in this game for as long as I have, you understand that’s part of it. It (stinks). The life of a coach is not easy.”
All of the coaches are in good standing in the organization, but so much of their future depends on who the next manager is that it will take time for the decisions to fully shake out.
Lett has been with the team since 2010, Jewett since 2011, though with the organization since 2009. Tarasco joined the major league staff this season after seven years working in player development roles in the minor league system. Schu came on this July when Rick Eckstein was fired, after three-plus seasons as the minor league hitting coordinator.
“We have everything we need right here,” said shortstop Ian Desmond, who endorsed Knorr as his choice for the next manager. “We have the manager, we have the staff. To be honest, I don’t know if there’s somebody else better out there who could bring more out of us than what this staff did.
“We played tremendous the last two months of the season. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get off to a good start but I think we proved what we have is good enough.”