GM Backs Hitting Coach

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lenny Harris is the hitting coach of the Washington Nationals, a team that has spent much of the season not hitting. But yesterday afternoon, following a three-game stretch in which the Nationals scored a total of six runs, General Manager Jim Bowden indicated that sticking with Harris will solve the hitting woes.

"He's being a part of [the solution] right now," Bowden said. "We may not have the results yet, but we're making progress. They look better. We haven't seen it in the game yet, but we're seeing it outside of the game. It's coming. You may see it by the end of the weekend, that's how quick it's coming.

"Look, Lenny works extremely hard. I come down early, he's in the video room with Lastings Milledge. He's in the cage down there with Elijah Dukes. He's working very hard. When a group doesn't perform, you never point to one person, not one player, not one hitting coach. There's always enough blame to go around to everybody. What's important is how to fix it."

According to Bowden, Harris -- who replaced Mitchell Page, who was granted a leave of absence for personal problems, in May 2007 -- is relying more on video than he did initially.

Still, the lineup Washington assembled for yesterday's game featured position players who began the day with averages of .038 (Dukes), .216 (Wily Mo Pe¿a) and .235 (Milledge). The Nationals entered yesterday's games last in the National League in batting average.

Flores Is Flourishing

Jes¿s Flores has been back in the big leagues since May 9 -- a day when the Nationals lost two catchers to injury and likely discovered a catcher for the future. Flores has a .357 average, a cadre of pitchers who compliment his work behind the plate and a manager who can wax poetic about the way he blocks the plate. ("An old time kind of block," Manager Manny Acta said of Flores's run-saving block and tag-out in Tuesday night's game. "Just tremendous. He blocked it even before he had the ball in his hands.")

Paul Lo Duca, who began the season as the starting catcher, is on the disabled list with a right hand injury. But Bowden said that even once Lo Duca returns, "it's going to be extremely hard to take [Flores] out of the lineup if he plays like this. We're about developing players."

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