When the season is over — and at this rate that’s about two weeks away — Nationals manager Dave Martinez plans to talk with each member of his coaching staff.
And those conversations may not be easy, as the Nationals have underperformed this season after winning the past two National League East titles under former skipper Dusty Baker.
Martinez said those discussions next month will include Mike Rizzo, the longtime general manager, though he didn’t give specifics.
“I will sit down with each coach and Mike as well and pick their brain about we need to do moving forward and what I expect out of each of them moving forward,” Martinez told The Washington Times last week in Philadelphia.
Before this season, Martinez had not worked with hitting coach Kevin Long, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and several other members of his staff. One familiar face is bullpen coach Henry Blanco, the quality assurance coach for the Cubs the previous three seasons while Martinez was the bench coach there.
Several of the Nationals hitters have praised the work of Long, who held the same position in the past with the New York Mets. Long became the Nationals’ hitting coach after last season and came aboard to high praise from infielder Daniel Murphy, who has since been traded to the Cubs.
Lilliquist, a former big league pitcher, spent the previous 16 years in the St. Louis system. He became the Cardinals’ bullpen coach in 2011 and was named the pitching coach during the following season. His name doesn’t come up much in interviews with Washington pitchers, for better or worse.
The Nationals were 75-74 going into Sunday’s game at first-place Atlanta (83-65) — this after Washington won at least 95 games in each season under Baker.
So will rookie skipper Martinez return?
“I haven’t considered any other scenario,” Rizzo said this month.
Martinez, signed by the club to a three-year contract last fall with an option for a fourth, said he can learn a lot from his early days as a coach with Tampa Bay.
Martinez, 53, became a special assistant in 2005 to manager Joe Maddon with Tampa Bay, and the team lost 95 games that season.
But three years later, Martinez was the bench coach for Maddon when the club won the American League pennant with 97 wins and advanced to the World Series.
“Maddon talked about staying positive, being patient and remember you are a teacher first. (So) teach,” Martinez said. “That is what I have been doing, teaching and giving these guys an opportunity to play and try to have them succeed. He talked about (2005) quite a bit. He talked about what needed to change. He said as long as you get better every day things work out.”
Martinez has started to insert younger players into the lineup and that will most likely increase once the Nationals are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
One of those young players is outfielder Victor Robles, who played in 13 games last season as a rookie and then was called up to the majors this month.
“Right now, it is still tough to get them in there and let them play every day,” Martinez said of young players. “We are still in (the playoff race) until we are mathematically out of it. We are playing for something.”