- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — One day after extending manager Manny Acta’s contract, Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden met with his manager to discuss the future of the organization’s coaching staff. Indications are that the entire group could be back in 2008.

Though a final decision won’t be made until today, Acta suggested that all six of his coaches — pitching coach Randy St. Claire, bench coach Pat Corrales, base coaches Tim Tolman and Jerry Morales, hitting coach Lenny Harris and bullpen coach Rick Aponte — deserve to return based on their performances.

“It’s almost certain that almost everybody will be back,” Acta said before yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. “We haven’t made the final decision yet. It’s going to be done pretty soon. I think that [today] everybody will know.”

In previous years, Bowden has waited until after the season ended to make coaching staff decision. But the team’s ownership situation stable, the front office decided to let the coaches know one way or the other before going home for the winter.

St. Claire (who has been with the franchise since 2003) and Corrales (who was hired this year after a lengthy stint with the Atlanta Braves) have received the most praise all season and have been all but assured they’ll be retained.

“There should be a pitching coach of the year award, and [St. Claire] should win it,” Acta said. “This guy has just been tremendous.”

Tolman, Morales and Aponte are all longtime co-workers and friends of Acta, and though Tolman admittedly made a few mistakes sending runners around third earlier in the season, he improved over the last three months.

“I think he obviously started a little shaky at the beginning of the year,” Acta said. “But it’s not an easy job. … Gradually, he’s gotten better.”

Harris’ future has been less certain. A roving minor league instructor when the season began, he was promoted to major league hitting coach when Mitchell Page took a leave of absence for personal reasons. Baseball’s all-time leader in pinch-hits, Harris had never held that kind of responsibility before, and it has taken him some time to understand what the job entails.

“Lenny brings a lot of energy, and we’re willing to give Lenny the opportunity to grow into that job because we think he brings a lot to the table,” Acta said. “That’s what we’re doing. If we have times where we’re doing it with players, then I think sometimes we ought to do it with coaches, too.”

Zim golden

Ryan Zimmerman has bounced back from a defensive slump that threatened to throw his whole season out of whack.

The Nationals third baseman, who turned 23 on Friday, committed four errors in a two-game span Sept. 7-8 in Atlanta, giving him 23 for the season. But in the 19 games since, his glove work has been flawless.

That development has been no big surprise to Acta, who continues to endorse Zimmerman for his first Gold Glove award.

“He’s the best,” Acta said. “You want to know? Ask the other coaches on the other clubs. I don’t pay attention to errors. A big reason our pitching staff is where it is, is because of Zimmerman. I don’t know if they have any way to measure that. I know they have special charts and all that, but this guy has saved more runs than he has driven in for us.”

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