Rick Schu is expected to return as Nationals hitting coach, according to people familiar with the situation, marking, at least for now, the lone holdover from the previous coaching staff. As he mulled over the choice, Manager Dusty Baker had considered Schu a strong candidate to return because he wanted players to have some measure of continuity. He hinted at the hiring during an interview Friday on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio.
The Nationals have not yet announced any coaching hirings beyond Mike Maddux as pitching coach and Davey Lopes as first base/baserunning coach.
The Nationals finished third in runs scored in the National League each of the past two years. Even though the offense started slow and endured numerous injuries, the Nationals finished with a .251 average (ninth in the NL) and with a .724 OPS (5th). Several players have spoken highly of Schu, 53, and his personality. Bryce Harper blossomed into a MVP-level player this season under fired-manager Matt Williams and Schu, who also coached him in the minors. Denard Span credited Schu’s help in his own improvements.
Schu, a former major league third baseman, was twice the hitting coach in Arizona before joining the Nationals in 2009 as a minor league hitting instructor. He and Baker already know each other and are both from the Sacramento area. In fact, both went to the same high school, Del Campo High in Fair Oaks, but several years apart.
“I don’t believe in going into an organization and cleaning house because you’ve got to have somebody’s opinion that you trust in personnel,” Baker said of Schu on the radio. “What you see a lot of times on that side of the field is totally different than what you see on the side of the field.”
The Nationals coaching staff still has a few spots left. Chris Speier will either be the third base coach or bench coach, although the choice is still being decided. Baker said the Nationals also wanted to hire an assistant hitting coach as the seventh coaching position.
“We’ve got to come up with a bullpen guy and a catching guy, which I think baseball has done a poor job of,” Baker said on the radio. “The catching guy is usually the first guy to go or last to sign. But I think that’s one of the most important positions on the field. Somebody to correct the catchers and the pitchers and be a direct reflection on me. They’re my field general. …
“I believe in a diversified staff, some old, some young, some white, some black, some Latin. Everybody has to have somebody they can converse with and talk to. I’ve always said that coaches are like your uncles. You can tell your uncle anything. Talking to your manager is like talking to your dad. I tell my dad most things but there are certain things I can’t tell my dad. I don’t know about you.”