- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What Manny Acta lacks in managerial experience he definitely added to his coaching staff.

The new Washington Nationals manager, at 37 the youngest in major league baseball, yesterday announced the hiring of a staff of coaches, each of whom has decades of big league experience.

Pitching coach Randy St. Claire, a holdover from last season, now is the only member of the staff under 50.

“They’re very qualified,” Acta said.

Indeed. Acta hired 65-year-old Pat Corrales, a longtime member of the Atlanta Braves’ staff, as his bench coach. He retained Mitchell Page, 55, from the staff of former Nationals manager Frank Robinson to serve as the hitting coach. Acta also hired Tim Tolman, 50, as the third-base coach, Jerry Morales, 57, as the first-base coach, and Rick Aponte, 50, as the bullpen coach.

“It’s very important to have experience. With experience comes wisdom,” general manager Jim Bowden said.

That wisdom starts with Corrales. Corrales joins Acta’s staff this season in what will be his 42nd season in the major leagues. Corrales spent the previous 17 seasons on Bobby Cox’s Braves staff, the last eight as bench coach.

Corrales helped Cox win 14 consecutive National League East titles and, in 1995, a World Series championship. Only Cox has managed or coached longer in the competitive NL East than Corrales. Nationals president Stan Kasten certainly is familiar with Corrales. Kasten was the Braves’ president from 1987 to 2003.

“I’m a huge fan of Pat Corrales,” Kasten said. “He was Bobby Cox’s right-hand guy all those years and all those championships.”

Corrales also brings to the Nationals nine seasons of big league managerial experience with the Texas Rangers (1978-80), Philadelphia Phillies (1982-83) and Cleveland Browns (1983-87).

“I can’t tell you how important it is to have Pat Corrales next to me,” Acta said. “I consider myself lucky to have a guy like Pat. After getting my butt kicked by Atlanta all those years, it was a no-brainer.”

Acta used his Houston Astros connections to land Tolman, his minor league mentor, and Aponte. Acta played for Tolman at Class A Burlington (Vt.) in his last season as a player.

Tolman spent the past four seasons as the Indians’ minor league field coordinator. He also managed at every level in the Astros’ minor league system when Acta came through as a player.

“He taught me a lot about the game,” Acta said.

Acta credits Aponte, who spent the past 32 seasons with the Astros organization, with discovering him as a player. Aponte’s ability to speak Spanish fluently should benefit the Nationals long-term, especially as the club discovers more talent in Acta’s native Dominican Republic.

“He’s very smart, baseball-wise or life,” Acta said. “He’s been big with the Astros and was instrumental in developing [AL Cy Young winner] Johan Santana and Freddy Garcia when they were both in the Astros organization.”

Morales will be in charge of positioning the Nationals’ outfielders, a job he did on Robinson’s staff with the then-Expos from 2002 to 2004.

Acta discussed Page with St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols and third baseman Scott Rolen. Page served as the Cardinals’ hitting coach from 2002 to 2004. Both sluggers endorsed him.

“His track record is there, his numbers are there and he has a good relationship with a lot of the players,” Acta said.

Added Bowden: “The players were vociferous in Mitchell returning to the staff.”

Note — Baseball America named Nationals minor league outfielder Kory Casto as the 14th-best prospect in the Arizona Fall League and right-hander Marco Estrada as the 10th-best prospect in the Hawaii Winter League.

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