Back From Beijing, Coach To Join Nats

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Last week, he was in Beijing. On Tuesday, he was home in Orlando. And by 3:30 p.m. yesterday, he was glad-handing players in the Washington Nationals clubhouse.

Rick Eckstein, Class AAA Columbus's hitting coach and a coach for the U.S. Olympic baseball team, will be brought up for September call-ups. Each team gets to promote one minor league coach when the rosters expand, and Eckstein will become Washington's sixth coach as the regular season concludes. He made his first visit to Nationals Park yesterday.

"Rick brings a lot to the table," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "There's a reason why Davey Johnson picked him to be one of this coaches on the Olympic team. Because he's that good."

Eckstein had spent three years in the Nationals organization, most recently in 2006 as hitting coach for the Class AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, before returning to the organization this season with Columbus. He has also coached in the St. Louis, Minnesota and Tampa Bay organizations. At the Olympics, he helped guide the U.S. team to a bronze medal.

Said Eckstein: "To go over there and compete and represent our country and come home with the bronze medal -- obviously we had our eye on the gold -- but getting in the bronze medal game and winning that was special for us."

The game was Saturday but he only recently returned home. As of yesterday, he was still making a quick turnaround from Beijing. "Yeah, I haven't slept right in 48 hours," he said. "I'm working on about five hours sleep."

Dukes Returns to Lineup

Outfielder Elijah Dukes, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 7 with a strained right calf, rejoined the Nationals and batted in the seventh spot. He said he's "pretty much done now" feeling pain in his leg.

Dukes, who went 1 for 11 with a home run and three walks in six games with Columbus, said he ran every day during the rehab assignment. He said he would welcome the opportunity to play in the winter league because he has missed a total of 72 games during three trips to the disabled list this season.

"I've been out two times, back to back," Dukes said. "It kinda throws you off a little bit. Hopefully I can get back going, just like I was when I did come back and hurt myself the last time."

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