- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Washington Nationals pitching coach Randy St. Claire is always on the move.

If he’s not overseeing a throwing session with a player on the disabled list, he’s playing center field during early batting practice.

If he’s not supervising pregame long tossing, he’s throwing batting/bunting practice to his staff.

And if he’s not going over a game plan with that game’s starter and catcher, he’s in the video room — a lot.

“Randy watches more video of us than my kid watches cartoons,” Nationals reliever Ray King said.

So far this season, there has been little down time for St. Claire, in his fifth season as the team’s pitching coach.

Entering tonight’s game against Pittsburgh, the Nationals (23-34) already have used 17 pitchers (nine starters) and have had to rely on minor league veterans like Micah Bowie, Mike Bacsik and Jason Bergmann and fill holes created by injuries to John Patterson, Shawn Hill and Jerome Williams.

“It’s more challenging because you have to do more work with all the guys,” St. Claire said last week in the Nationals’ dugout. “When you have a veteran-laden pitching staff, they pretty much have their own game plan, and you go over it with them and determine if it’s right. But they’ve been around, and they know the hitters.”

The Nationals ranked 12th in the National League with a 4.58 ERA entering last night, but there have been some solid performances. Before going on the disabled list, Hill was 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA. Reliever Jesus Colome (4-0, 2.43) and starters Bowie (20 relief appearances, three starts), Bacsik (1-1, 2.29) and Bergmann (2.76 ERA in eight starts) have been pleasant surprises.

“That’s one of the things I enjoy, working with the guys and seeing them make progress,” St. Claire said. “That’s what it’s all about for me, seeing a guy get better and get over the hump.

“The accolades have to go to them because they’re the ones doing it. You can only supply the information; you can’t make them do it.”

But King, one of the few veterans on the staff, is quick to praise St. Claire for his approach with the young pitchers.

“We have guys who have made the jump from [Class AA], and Randy has eased the burden for them,” King said. “He’s always preaching to attack the strike zone, get ahead and make them hit your pitches no matter what the name on the back of their jersey is.”

Scrambling to piece together a starting rotation and a bullpen isn’t foreign to St. Claire. In 2004, Montreal lost four starting pitchers, and St. Claire used 22 pitchers. Two years ago, the Nationals remained in playoff contention until late summer with a staff that numbered 25 pitchers, including 15 starters.

With so many pitchers coming and going, St. Claire’s versatility is essential. Although his No. 1 key is forcing early contact, St. Claire adapts his philosophy depending on the pitcher.

“Randy studies every pitcher and finds out exactly what makes that pitcher different from another,” King said. “I’ve been on teams where a certain coach has their motto and that’s what he tells everybody. Randy works with you instead of just telling you what to do.”

St. Claire makes watching video a priority, even during the game when the Nationals are hitting. The team uses video from three angles — center field, behind home plate and first base/third base depending if it’s a right- or left-handed pitcher.

“He’s definitely a hands-on guy when it comes to the video room homework,” Hill said. “Each of those angles shows you something. For me, the biggest thing is watching the angle from behind home plate because my line gets messed up and I’ll throw across my body. From the TV angle, you can see how the ball is moving.”

St. Claire, 46, turned to coaching after a big league career that spanned nine seasons and 162 relief appearances. Following his retirement in 1994, he began a seven-year journey back to the majors, serving as pitching coach in locales like Stockton, Calif.; Cape Fear, N.C.; and Ottawa. He became Montreal’s pitching coach in 2003 and was retained by new manager Manny Acta, who worked with him on the Expos’ staff in 2003-04.

“As a player, it was the same thing as a coach — you toil in the minor leagues … and you strive to get to the big leagues like you did as a player,” St. Claire said. “You put your work in down there and love the job just as much, but the ultimate goal is to get here.”

Unlike San Diego’s Bud Black, he has no interest in making the jump from pitching coach to manager. More time overseeing the big picture would mean less time doing what likes best — working one-on-one with his pitchers.

“You don’t get to work with guys as the manager,” he said. “When you’re the manager, you have the media every day. You have to do this and that and everything, and the job can’t come into effect until game time. Working with players is what I do. That’s my enjoyment.”

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