WASHINGTON -- Rick Schu was in Jupiter, Fla., watching the Gulf Coast Nationals when he received a call from Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to join the coaching staff and replace Rick Eckstein as the team's hitting coach. Schu didn't hesitate and reported to Nationals Park late Tuesday morning.
Schu said he understood what Eckstein was going through. Eckstein was let go because Washington's offense was not productive. The team was near the bottom of almost every offensive category.
"I've been in this business for 32 years and I've been in it as a player, a coach. I've been in the Major Leagues as a hitting coach and I know the pressures up here," Schu said. "I kind of heard grumblings, but I'm surprised. I know Rick real well. He is such a workaholic. He is a great hitting coach. I knew he worked hard. I didn't know that move would happen. When it did, I'm going to do what the organization asked me to do, whether it's hanging out in the Gulf Coast League, Triple-A or come to the big leagues, wherever Rizzo needs me."
When Schu was asked about his hitting philosophy, it sounded similar to manager Davey Johnson's.
"I want to be aggressive, I want to hunt fastballs. Keep it simple. I would like to see us put the ball in play a little bit more," Schu said. "We have four teams in first place in the Minor Leagues. It's not about being more talented, I think it's just committing to the team's concept -- moving runners, putting the ball in play with two strikes, grinding at-bats. That's what this team is capable of doing. We just have to get back to it."
Schu, who was a roving hitting instructor for the Nationals, has preexisting relationships with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina. He will also draw on relationships with Chad Tracy and Scott Hairston gained during their days together with the D-backs. Schu has also worked closely with numerous other Nationals hitters during the last four Spring Trainings.
"What I remember, he was the type of hitting coach who wouldn't say a lot right away because he wanted to get to know you as a player and as a person, which is a quality that is good to have," Hairston said. "He made an effort to also make you feel good as a hitter. He was very positive."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Tom Schad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Schad. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less