Results tagged ‘ Rick Eckstein ’

Thoughts from the clubhouse on Eckstein’s firing

By Tom Schad | Associate Reporter

After watching his offense score five runs in three games against the Dodgers, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo decided that it was time for a change. He fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who was in his ninth season with the club, including his fifth as hitting coach.

Manager Davey Johnson was not happy about the move, calling Monday “arguably the toughest day I’ve had in baseball.” Here’s what some of the players had to say:

Chad Tracy: “A lot of us feel like we had some responsibility in him being let go. There’s nobody on this coaching staff that works harder than Rick Eckstein. It’s unfortunate just because it’s not his fault. I think he’s a great guy, first of all. He’ll land on his feet somewhere. There’s no doubt about that. And I really enjoyed having him around here the last two years.”

Adam LaRoche: “It’s unfortunate for we, the offense, to put them in a position where they have to make the move. He’s a great hitting coach, there’s nothing he could have done. It’s on us. It’s hard to send your whole offense down to the minors.”

Ian Desmond: “Rick was part of something really special here. It gets hard to remember that a couple of years ago there were 15,000 or 20,000 people in the stands and a sub-.500 team getting run out there every day. With Rick we got better, we continued to get better and we ended up winning a division title. I think he’s got four or five Silver Sluggers on his resume. He’s done a lot of special things and he’s obviously a very good hitting coach. But this is a very cutthroat business and it’s all about what have you done for me lately. Unfortunately for him, he had to go.”

LaRoche: “You want a hitting coach who’s in the cage all day long, always there waiting for guys to come down there. I don’t think you could ever walk in that cage anytime of the day and not see Eck in there.”

Desmond: “I think one of the best qualities of Rick was that he was the epitome of a team player. If I said, ‘Rick I want to go out and hit in some rain and lightning,’ he would do it.”

Ryan Zimmerman: “It’s tough. It’s part of the professional business. When things don’t happen on the field, things like this have to happen. But it’s the players’ fault. We’re the ones not hitting, we’re the ones not scoring runs. When it comes down to it, no hitting coach or pitching coach can do anything about this but us.”

Tracy: “I don’t think anybody can blame Rick Eckstein for any of the woes that we’ve had on the offensive side. And Rick Schu, he’s been around a lot of us, so he knows our swings. I’m sure he’s probably looking at a lot of them on video as we speak to try to get familiar before he gets here. It may change the atmosphere around here. And it may not. We don’t know. But we’ll move on and flip the page and keep playing baseball.”

Zimmerman: “I’ve hit the same way since I was ten years old. When you get to this level, it’s your job to hit. We get paid a lot of money to hit and do our job. … No coach is going to come in here and turn someone who isn’t a .300 hitter into a .300 hitter. When you get to this level, you are what you are.”

Eckstein on Harper: ‘At a loss for words’

Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein was at a loss for words when it came to describing left fielder Bryce Harper, who hit two home runs in a 2-0 victory over the Marlins.

During Spring Training, Harper, 20, was clearly the Nationals’ best player, hitting .478 with three home runs and 15 RBIs.

“You see what I see. It’s incredible,” Eckstein said. “This young man has really shown us what he is capable of doing. I think he has learned more about what he is capable of doing. He has learned about who he is on the baseball field, his demeanor, the way he carries himself, the way he interacts with his teammates. Today was just him expressing his talents. He is an amazing young man. I really don’t know how to put it into words.”

Eckstein declined to put numbers on Harper, but expects him to be a major player on the team in 2013.

“Bryce has put more pressure on himself than anybody else can put on him. He shows up every day with a passion to be the best not only what he could be, but the best that has ever played.”

Suzuki benefiting from hitting work with Eckstein

By Mike Fiammetta / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — For his first two weeks in a Nationals uniform, Kurt Suzuki’s role with his new team was one-dimensional. Manage the Nats’ young and talented pitching staff, and any offense that came with it would be considered a nice bonus.

After being traded to the Nats on Aug. 3, Suzuki batted just .180 (9-for-50) in his first 13 games. His work with the pitchers was fine, but eventually the Nats were going to want more offensive production from the bottom of their order.

“My job is to get the pitchers through the game and give us a chance to win,” Suzuki said. “Whatever I do offensively, I’m happy with, but when you contribute to both sides of the ball on the field, it definitely makes for a good game.”

Now, though, Suzuki has found his stroke at the plate and carries a six-game hitting streak into Monday’s series-opener with the Cubs. The 28-year-old backstop played a critical role in Sunday’s 4-3 series-clinching win over the Cardinals, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run in the fourth and an RBI-single in the sixth.

“Suzuki’s been good, he’s been swinging the bat better,” manager Davey Johnson said. “Today, he was outstanding. For some reason, I think he’s had pretty good success against [Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook]. He was 3-for-6 with a home run, and you could tell from that first at-bat with runners in scoring position. The ball hit him in both legs — he didn’t argue, he wanted to stay there and hit.”

Johnson has repeatedly credited Suzuki’s work with hitting coach Rick Eckstein this week, and did so again on Sunday.

“Well I thought when he first got here, he actually had a little bigger swing,” Johnson said. “He was kind of swinging up on the ball, a little longer swing. Eckstein’s done a good job.

“We had him in Cuba in the Olympic qualifier [in 2006] and he swung the bat really good there. We liked him a whole lot. I had both him [Red Sox catcher] Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and I liked Suzuki. He caught the last game over Saltalamacchia. So I liked him at an early age. He had a nice, short, quick stroke then, but when he came over, he was a little long. He’s getting back to it.”

With his quicker swing, Suzuki has went 8-for-19 (.421) with two home runs and five RBI over the course of the six-game hitting streak.

In addition, the adjustments have also made for a helpful approach that has helped Suzuki feel more free at the plate.

“That’s what we’ve really been doing, just take the effort out of the swing and just kind of be nice and easy, free and easy,” he said. “The less tension you have, you’re going to definitely be a lot quicker.”

Game 130: Cardinals at Nationals

Mike Fiammetta here, helping out Bill Ladson on the blog as the Nationals return home from their eventful — to say the least — road trip for an 11-game homestand. As always, following along at Nationals.com.

After snapping their five-game losing streak last night in Miami, the Nationals begin a four-game set with the Cardinals tonight. Edwin Jackson faces the team he won a World Series ring with last year, which will send left-hander Jaime Garcia to face the Nats. Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the Nats on Friday, followed by Jordan Zimmermann — carrying his 2.63 ERA into a matchup against Kyle Lohse’s 2.64 — on Saturday and Stephen Strasburg on Sunday.

Sticking to tonight, though, the Nats will trot out their normal lineup — with one exception. Jesus Flores will catch Jackson while Kurt Suzuki gets a day off. Flores last played in the series finale with the Phillies on Aug. 26, a 4-1 loss.

The timing is somewhat odd, considering Suzuki is as hot at the plate as he’s been since coming to the Nats. Suzuki has a three-game hitting streak in which he’s 4-for-10 with a home run, which Johnson credited to the work the veteran catcher has been putting in with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

“Eck’s been working with him good, he’s in a good place right now,” Johnson said. “I like the way he’s been swinging the last three days. He’s in a good spot.”

-Speaking of Strasburg (as always), manager Davey Johnson said the Nats’ young ace will make two or three more starts before he is shut down for the season. After his horrid outing Tuesday night against the Marlins — seven runs allowed (five earned) on nine hits in five innings — Strasburg has thrown 150 1/3 innings. Of course, Johnson’s comments fall pretty much in line with the 160-180 innings number that’s been thrown around all season.

-Bill will have more on Strasburg, Bryce Harper’s temper and Drew Storen’s hot streak in the notebook. In the meantime, here are tonight’s lineups:

Cardinals (71-59, 2nd NL Central)

  1. Jon Jay CF
  2. Carlos Beltran RF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Allen Craig 1B
  5. Yadier Molina C
  6. David Freese 3B
  7. Skip Schumaker 2B
  8. Rafael Furcal SS
  9. Jaime Garcia LHP

Nationals (78-51, 1st NL East)

  1. Jayson Werth RF
  2. Bryce Harper CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
  4. Michael Morse LF
  5. Adam LaRoche 1B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Danny Espinosa 2B
  8. Jesus Flores C
  9. Edwin Jackson RHP

Nats’ Eckstein remains silent with media

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has instructed hitting coach Rick Eckstein not to talk to the media.

In the last week, members of the Washington media have attempted to talk to Eckstein about the team’s problems at the plate, but they have been turned down. Entering Friday’s action, the team is hitting .229, which ranks 29th in the Major Leagues.

According to people with knowledge of the situation, the reason for Eckstein’s silence is because Rizzo doesn’t want Eckstein to blame himself for the problems at the plate. Rizzo is one of Eckstein’s biggest supporters.

Rizzo also believes members of the media would not talk to Eckstein if the team was hitting well at the plate. Instead, they would talk only to the players.

Eckstein is considered one of the hardest working coaches in baseball. In fact, outfielder Jayson Werth said recently, “Ecky sleeps and drinks baseball.”

Before going on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury, first baseman Adam LaRoche said the team’s hitting woes were not Eckstein’s fault.

“It’s not easy for him at all. It might be harder on him than it is an individual hitter,” LaRoche said. “The entire team feels responsible. He has done everything he could possibility do to get guys on track. He spends more time watching video. He goes in the batter’s box to just to mimic player’s swings just to get a feeling in the batter’s box.”

It’s not known how long Eckstein will remain silent. Calls to Rizzo were not returned and Eckstein was not available for comment.

Eckstein has been Washington’s hitting coach since 2009. That year, Washington was tied for sixth in the National League with a .258 batting average.

Last year, the Nationals were tied for ninth in the NL with a .250 batting average.

LaRoche, Nix support Nats’ Eckstein

Entering Friday’s action against the Orioles, the Nationals have a .223 batting average, the worst in the Major Leagues.

After Washington’s 1-0 loss to the Mets on Thursday afternoon, general manager Mike Rizzo ordered hitting coach Rick Eckstein not to talk to the media to help explain what’s going wrong with the offense. Rizzo declined to say why he made directive.

But first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Laynce Nix said that Eckstein is not to blame for the season-long slump.

“It’s not easy for him at all. It might be harder on him than it is an individual hitter,” said LaRoche, who is hitting .172 for the season. “The entire team feels responsible. He has done everything he could possibility do to get guys on track. He spends more time watching video. He goes in the batter’s box to just to mimic player’s swings just to get a feeling in the batter’s box.”

Nix, who is the only position player who is hitting over .300 for the Nationals, said Eckstein is a positive person when he teaches the art of hitting.

“We are having a hard time putting hits together, getting guys on base or doing a lot of things right,” Nix said. “It’s pretty simple: We have to make our own breaks and not depend on luck. We feel for Eck and he feels a lot of heat, but we believe in him and he believes in us. Everybody is working hard. We will be out of this [slump] soon.”

Nats add McLaren, retain Eckstein, Listach, McCatty

The Nationals will soon announce that John McLaren will be Jim Riggleman’s bench coach and they have retained Rick Eckstein, Pat Listach and Steve McCatty as the hitting coach, third-base coach and pitching coach, respectively, according to a baseball source.

McLaren is best known for managing the Mariners for parts of the 2007 and ’08 seasons. Riggleman was his bench coach in ’08. McLaren was also on Lou Piniella’s coaching staffs when both were with the Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays.

Riggleman and general manager Mike Rizzo were not available for comment.  

As for Eckstein, Listach and McCatty, they come back for a second season with Washington. Under Eckstein, the Nationals ranked ninth in hitting [.258], while hitting 156 home runs and 685 RBIs.

Listach, who has managed in the Cubs system for several years, will continue be an infield instructor.

McCatty replaced Randy St. Claire in May and had a great relationship with the young pitchers such as John Lannan and Craig Stammen. McCatty is looking improve a pitching staff that had National League-worst 5.00 ERA.

The Nationals are looking to hire a first-base and bullpen coach. Marquis Grissom and Randy Knorr are not returning to the club. Knorr will be the manager of Double-A Harrisburg and Grissom has been offered a job to be the hitting coach at Triple-A Syracuse. It’s not known if he will accept the job.                

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