Tony Tarasco joins Nationals’ coaching staff [UPDATED]

Bo Porter accepted the Astros’ managerial position in September. (Alex Brandon / AP)

UPDATE, 6:22: The Nationals named Gary Thurman as their minor league outfield/baserunning coordinator, replacing the position left vacant by Tony Tarasco who was promoted to serve as the Nationals first base coach.

Thurman, 48, was recently the first base coach for the Miami Marlins, and before that spent three seasons as the Cleveland Indians’ minor league outfield/baserunning coordinator. He also spent nine seasons in the Seattle Mariners organization. Thurman, a former first-round pick, played nine seasons in the big leagues as an outfield, mostly with the Kansas City Royals.

Also worth noting: the rest of the Nationals major league coaching staff will return next season, while adding Tarasco.

–James Wagner

UPDATE, 2:45: The Nationals made Tony Tarasco’s place on the 2013 staff official in an announcement on Twitter. That didn’t take long.

ORIGINAL POST: The Nationals could soon finalize their 2013 coaching staff by elevating outfield instructor Tony Tarasco from the minor leagues to coach first base. They would then move Trent Jewett to third base coach, a vacancy created when Bo Porter agreed to manage the Houston Astros.

Manager Davey Johnson said the final decision remains “a work in progress.” But he has spoken to both Tarasco and General Manager Mike Rizzo about adding Tarasco to the Nationals’ staff.

“I saw him work in the minor leagues,” Johnson said. “I thought he had a good rapport with the players. I think he’s a good fit.”

Tarasco has been with the Nationals since 2006, when he first joined the organization as a hitting coach for their Rookie league affiliate in Vermont. For the past years, Tarasco served as the Nationals minor league outfield coordinator.

One of Porter’s key roles was instructing outfielders; this year, he helped both Tyler Moore and Steve Lombardozzi learn the outfield in spring training. Tarasco would fill that void. Bryce Harper has often credited Tarasco for his successful conversion from catcher to outfielder after the Nationals drafted Harper in 2010.

Class AAA Syracuse Manager Tony Beasley had been considered for the third base coaching job. But Beasley is more of an infield coach, and Johnson wanted a coach to replace Porter’s forte.

“I love Beasley, but Beasley is more of a managerial candidate and not a baserunning/outfield guy,” Johnson said. “He could do it, but it’s not his specialty.”

Tarasco, 41, appeared in eight major league seasons, including two years playing for Davey Johnson when he managed the Baltimore Orioles.

His most infamous moment came in the 1996 ALCS, when he drifted back to catch Derek Jeter’s warning track fly ball and an 11-year-old named Jeffrey Maier reached over the right field fence and took it away. As Jeter circled the bases, Tarasco screamed at umpire Rich Garcia for making the incorrect call of a home run.

Jewett has coached first base for the Nationals for two seasons. Previously, he managed Class AAA Syracuse. Jewett has years of experiencing coaching third base as a minor league manager, which is why Johnson would want to move him across the diamond.

Johnson first mentioned the possibility of adding Tarasco to the staff in an interview with ESPN 980.

In another personnel note, the Nationals have hired scout Bob Johnson to enhance their preparations for opponents. For the past two seasons, the Nationals have done all of their scouting on upcoming opponents through video. Johnson, a long-time advance scout for the Braves, will travel to games and work with Advance Scouting and Video Coordinator Erick Dalton, lending another set of eyes of years of experience. General Manager Mike Rizzo called Johnson, “one of the best advance scouts in the game.”

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