Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Washington Nationals’ long-standing plans to revamp their scouting department began to take form yesterday when the club announced it has hired 10 new scouts, including former major league general manager Chuck LaMar.

LaMar, who was general manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 1995 to 2005, was hired as a special assistant to GM Jim Bowden. He will be joined by fellow special assistant Moose Stubing, who spent the last 40 years as a player, coach, manager and scout with the Los Angeles Angels.

Along with assistant GM Mike Rizzo, who was hired this summer, and scouting director Dana Brown, who was given a long-term contract extension yesterday, the Nationals believe they now have one of baseball’s most prolific scouting teams. In sheer size alone, this new staff will dwarf the bare-bones operation that used to be a staple of this organization under Major League Baseball’s ownership.

Since Bowden took over in late 2004, the organization’s top scouts essentially were Brown (who heads the search for draft picks), assistant GM Bob Boone, special assistant Jose Rijo and often Bowden himself. Now, Rizzo heads the entire scouting operation, with Brown focusing on amateur players, LaMar focusing on major and minor league players and Rijo and others focusing on international players.

“This is a tremendous upgrade,” Bowden said. “Now we have a powerful staff in amateur, professional and international that we’ve never come close to having. This organization, whether in Montreal or here, has never had the manpower, nor the quality, nor the investment we have now.”

Brown has been a constant with the organization since MLB purchased the Expos in 2002. The 39-year-old has established himself as one of the game’s most-respected amateur scouts, having drafted current Nationals Ryan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero and current top prospects Kory Casto, Chris Marrero, Colton Willems and Zechry Zinicola.

“Between Dana and Mike Rizzo, we have two of the best scouting directors in all of baseball in the same organization,” Bowden said. “That hasn’t been done very often.”

To that list, the Nationals have now added LaMar and Stubing, whose primary job will be to scout major leaguers, as well as eight more bodies, including special assignment scouts Bill Singer, Bart Johnson and Kris Kline.

Washington also hired Jimmy Gonzales (western supervisor), Jeff Zona (eastern supervisor), Tim Kelly (Southern California supervisor), Tyler Wilt (Texas and Louisiana supervisor) and Steve Arneiri (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan supervisor).

Note — Two players underwent successful arthroscopic surgery yesterday. First baseman Nick Johnson underwent a procedure to remove scar tissue in his right knee, and the team doesn’t expect it to slow his rehabilitation from a broken leg suffered in late September. Pitcher Mike O’Connor had surgery on his left elbow to repair a cartilage defect. The team expects both players to be ready for spring training.

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