Nats Contact Braves About Pendleton

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006

The Washington Nationals' search for a replacement for ousted manager Frank Robinson has turned to Terry Pendleton, a former batting champion and the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves, where he once played and worked under Nationals President Stan Kasten.

Pendleton, 46, joins former Florida Manager Joe Girardi on the short list of candidates to replace Robinson, whose contract was not renewed after five years at the helm. Though Nationals officials -- including Kasten and General Manager Jim Bowden -- have not discussed the search since it began in earnest on Monday, a source close to the process said the Nationals had called seeking permission to speak with Pendleton, and that Atlanta General Manager John Schuerholz granted it.

Braves officials said Schuerholz was unavailable to comment, and Kasten and Bowden did not return messages seeking comment.

It is unclear when or if an interview of Pendleton will take place. Girardi also is a candidate for Chicago Cubs vacancy, but he had no interviews scheduled with either the Cubs or Nationals as of yesterday.

Though Girardi, who has one year as a major league manager behind him, appears eager to manage again, there is some question as to whether Pendleton -- who played parts of five seasons for the Braves -- would want to leave Atlanta. He has three children, and some within Braves circles wonder whether he would be willing to be away from his home for the entire season.

Still, Braves officials have enormous respect for Pendleton, who played in five World Series and won both the batting title and the National League MVP award in 1991 with Atlanta. He has served as the Braves' hitting coach -- his only major league coaching experience -- for the past five seasons, and earlier this week was rehired to the position in the midst of a shakeup of Manager Bobby Cox's staff.

Meantime, Dusty Baker, the former manager of the Cubs and San Francisco Giants, said yesterday by phone that although he had not been contacted by the Nationals, he has interest in the Washington job.

"You always have interest about something you want to continue doing, what you love to do," Baker said. Baker, whose contract with the Cubs wasn't renewed on Monday, said he had particular interest in the Nationals' position -- something he had told friends even during the season, though he wouldn't speak of it publicly because he was still employed by the Cubs and because of his respect for Robinson, a Hall of Famer whose fate was still undetermined.

"It's appealing because it's Washington," said Baker, 57. "It's appealing because it's a national team as well as an international team."

The addition of Pendleton to the pool of candidates -- which also could include former major league manager Lou Piniella, who has long-established ties to Bowden -- ensures Washington will at least attempt to interview minority candidates. The dismissals of Robinson and Baker, both African American, leave Willie Randolph of the New York Mets as the only black manager in baseball, a fact of which officials from both the Nationals and Major League Baseball are keenly aware.

"It's not that hard to figure out if you start counting," Baker said. "It's important [MLB officials] address that. But you don't want that to be the only prerequisite. You want a guy who's qualified and has a pretty good track record."

Other potential minority candidates for the Nationals job include Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel, both coaches for the New York Mets.

In other Nationals news, sources confirmed that a meeting between front-office members and potential free agent Alfonso Soriano and Diego Bentz, his agent, occurred Wednesday, but there didn't appear to be significant developments.

Staff writer Dave Sheinin in New York contributed to this report.

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