By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 27, 2007
NEW YORK, Sept. 26 -- When the season began, Lenny Harris was a roving instructor in the Washington Nationals' minor league system, one primarily charged with working with infielders. But in May, Harris was thrust into the role of major league hitting coach, even though he never had been a hitting coach, when Mitchell Page left the team for personal reasons.
Harris admits that he was unprepared.
"It's a lot of work," he said. "That surprised me. I thought it was like come to the ballpark, hang out a little, watch from the dugout, talk to the guys. But this is constantly in the cage trying to get it through their head, working with them, doing their homework for them, letting them know what pitches to look for.
"I ain't never did this much study when I played. I mean, if I knew what I know now, I probably would have been even better."
These are anxious times for the Nationals' coaches because their futures will be determined soon. General Manager Jim Bowden said he would meet with Manager Manny Acta this weekend in Philadelphia to discuss the staff.
"I've been pleased with their work ethic," Bowden said. "I've been pleased with the job that they've done with the team that they have. I'll get with Manny this week in Philadelphia and we'll talk about each one of them."
Pitching coach Randy St. Claire is almost certain to be back, as is bench coach Pat Corrales. The others -- bullpen coach Rick Aponte, first base coach Jerry Morales and third base coach Tim Tolman -- all were significant members of Acta's past. Now, Bowden will have more input.
The decision on Harris could be the most interesting. The Nationals were last in the majors in runs entering last night's games, and when Harris arrived, some within the organization noticed how much time he spent playing cards with players -- his last major league game was in 2005 -- rather than studying video. Harris said he now better understands the work ethic necessary. The Nationals got off to a slow start under Page, hitting .227, but have hit .262 under Harris.
Harris clearly wants the job.
"In my mind, it's done," Harris said. "But anything's subject to change. . . . You never know what can happen."