New hitting coach Rick Schu joins Nats
New hitting coach Rick Schu has joined the Nationals after catching a flight on Monday evening, ready to help in any way he can as Washington hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of their four-game series on Tuesday.
Schu said he got the call from the Nats in the middle of a doubleheader in Jupiter, Fla., while he was coaching in the Gulf Coast League. As a minor league hitting instructor for the team the past four seasons, he is familiar with many of the players, but admits he hasn’t watched much of the 48-51 Nationals this season.
Schu arrived at Nationals Park to meet with manager Davey Johnson Tuesday morning to go over what the team expects from his role over the season's final 63 games. He hopes to bring a fresh take to the Nats’ clubhouse and get them back to basics on offense.
“I like doing the little things and staying aggressive,” he said. “Hunt strikes, controlling the zone, swinging and strikes, staying aggressive on the heater, doing the little things. Moving the runners, getting a runner in from third, putting the ball in play with two strikes. It's very important and if it's important for us it becomes important to the players.”
Schu has worked with many of the younger Nationals players such as Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, those who have been in the minor leagues recently. He also knows veterans like Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos from rehab appearances this season and over the years.
From afar Schu has seen a talented team overall that has underachieved, but could be close to breaking through on offense.
“It's just a matter of getting on a roll, catching some breaks and relax a little bit and try not to get five hits in four at-bats and take one AB at a time, slow things down,” he said.
“This club's way too talented not to get on a roll. I think they're real capable of rolling off some wins. These guys care so much they put so much pressure on themselves, which is counter productive… let the game come to them. I tell my young guys in the minor leagues all the time, 'Slow the game down.'”
Schu has been a major league hitting coach before, a stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and says he’s seen “both sides” of the equation. He’s been somebody's replacement and he’s been the one who was replaced. As a friend of Rick Eckstein, Schu feels bad for the former Nats’ hitting coach.
“I've been in that position. You put your heart and soul into something and they tell you 'You know what, that's not good enough.' It's tough,” he said.
Schu said he had heard “rumblings” that Eckstein may be on the hot seat before the move was made, but was nonetheless surprised to hear it had actually happened. Eckstein has a reputation as a hard worker and had been defended through and through by the Nationals this season.
“You never know in this business. I've been in it for 32 years. I've been in it as a player and as a coach,” he said. “I know the pressures up here.”
“I didn't know if that move would happen, but when it did I'm going to do whatever the organization asks me to do, whether it be hang out in the GCL, Triple-A or come to the big leagues. Wherever [Mike] Rizzo needs me.”