- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

ST. LOUIS — The Washington Nationals’ new manager will inherit at least one key member of Frank Robinson’s old staff: Randy St. Claire.

General manager Jim Bowden announced yesterday the well-respected pitching coach will return for his fifth season with the franchise, regardless who ultimately is hired as manager.

Washington’s decision to retain St. Claire doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Over the last four seasons — two in Montreal, two in Washington — the 46-year-old has built a strong reputation for his work with the club’s pitching staff.

St. Claire, a right-handed reliever who spent nine seasons with five organizations, received praise for the job he did helping revive the careers of John Patterson, Hector Carrasco and Ryan Wagner. His staff posted a 5.03 ERA in 2006, worst in the National League, but several key performers were beset by injuries, leaving a makeshift rotation at times.

St. Claire was an ardent supporter of Robinson, who gave him his first job in the majors but was let go by the Nationals at the end of the season, but said he will have no trouble working with the club’s new manager.

“It’s my job to get whatever I can out of those pitchers and to do the things that are important to the manager,” St. Claire said. “It’s his team. When there’s a manager named, I’ll talk to him about different stuff that is important to him. And then when we get to spring training, we’ll start attacking those things.”

The new manager won’t have his choice of pitching coach, but he will have authority to select the rest of his staff, according to Bowden. That leaves bench coach Eddie Rodriguez, hitting coach Mitchell Page, third base coach Tony Beasley and bullpen coach Randy Knorr with uncertain futures. Their contracts expire Oct. 31.

“That kind of creates a little dilemma for those of us who can’t afford to go without a paycheck,” said Beasley, who said he has two offers for minor league managing jobs. “I’ve got to take care of my family. That’s the bottom line. But I’ve got some options.”

First base coach Davey Lopes already took matters into his own hands, accepting the same position with the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday.

The decision to announce St. Claire’s retention before naming a manager was a bit unusual, but it suggests the Nationals are not close to a hiring.

One key domino will fall today when Lou Piniella formally signs a three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, leaving Joe Girardi as the hottest manager left on the market. Girardi, who was fired after only one season with the Florida Marlins, has met twice with Washington officials but may not be the club’s top choice to replace Robinson.

The Nationals also have interviewed former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Atlanta Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, Houston Astros bench coach Cecil Cooper and Chicago White Sox third base coach Joey Cora and are likely to meet with New York Yankees first base coach Tony Pena and New York Mets coaches Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel.

Acta, in particular, is an attractive choice given his familiarity with the organization (he was the Expos’ third base coach from 2002 to 2004) and his experience managing the Dominican national team at this year’s World Baseball Classic (a team that featured Nationals slugger Alfonso Soriano).

Baseball sources said Mets general manager Omar Minaya has granted clubs permission to interview Acta, but that isn’t likely to happen until New York is eliminated from the postseason.

One other possible candidate could be Ken Macha, who was fired yesterday by the Oakland Athletics despite taking the club to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1992.

Bowden did not return messages yesterday. He has not spoken publicly since announcing Robinson would not be brought back Sept. 30.

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