Johnson and Tarasco: Together again

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Beanballs,Sports,Brian McNally

The Nationals have announced their coaching staff for the 2013 season. Everyone returns with manager Davey Johnson save third-base coach Bo Porter, who accepted the Houston Astros’ managerial position in September. He has been replaced by Tony Tarasco, who takes over as first base coach after seven years in a player-development role with the organization.

Tarasco, 41, was the outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Nats the last two seasons, Johnson preferred him for the major-league coaching position over Triple-A Syracuse manager Tony Beasley because Tarasco’s skills aligned with Porter’s former role on the staff. Trent Jewett moves from first base to third base. Bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Eckstein and bullpen coach Jim Lett all return as well.

“[Tarasco] is well respected in the organization,” Johnson said during a radio interview with ESPN-980 on Wednesday hosted by Kevin Sheehan and Examiner columnist Thom Loverro.  “He’s [coached] a lot of guys that we have on the ballclub coming up.”

That includes young players like Bryce Harper, the 2012 NL rookie of the year and a former catcher who has worked with Tarasco on adjusting to playing outfield both during spring training and in 2011 during his first full pro season in the minors.

Johnson, of course, wryly noted during that ESPN-980 interview his own history with Tarasco, the outfielder during the infamous 1996 American League Championship Series between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

Managing the Orioles at the time, Johnson watched from the dugout during Game 1 at Yankee Stadium as umpire Richie Garcia ruled that Jeffrey Maier, a 12-year-old fan, had not interfered when he caught a Derek Jeter fly ball, taking it away from Tarasco, the right fielder, and pulling it over the fence. Television replays showed otherwise.

That play tied the game at 4 with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Yankees eventually won it on a 12th inning home run by Bernie Williams. Baltimore lost the series in five games, but did win Game 2. So Johnson has long maintained – only half-jokingly – that play helped lead to his ouster by the Orioles after the team lost in the 1997 ALCS, too.

Tarasco, who played eight seasons in the majors, was the hitting coordinator for short-season A Vermont (2006-07) and then low-A Hagerstown (2008-10) before becoming a roving coordinator in the Washington minor-league system working with prospects at all levels.

The Nats have maintained a relatively stable coaching staff in recent years. McCatty and Eckstein both enter their fifth seasons. Lett has been with the club since 2010. Knorr joined the major-league coaching staff in 2011 and Jewett came aboard last season. Johnson, the 2012 NL manager of the year, was officially brought back as manager last Saturday, but says this will be his final season on the field. He then has one more year as a special assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo in 2014.

Both Jewett and Knorr have also managed in the Washington minor-league system and would be prime candidates to take over for Johnson if he sticks with that plan to retire. Knorr has been with the organization since 2005 in some capacity, including as big-league bullpen coach in 2006 and 2009. McCatty has been with the Nats since 2006. Jewett managed Single-A Potomac in 2009 and Triple-A Syracuse in 2010.

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