In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier last week, second-year National Max Scherzer talked about what is different in his second season in Spring Training with Washington.
"We've had a lot of turnover," Scherzer explained, "obviously with the coaching staff and then with the medical staff as well. Any time you have that type of turnover, you're going to have a different type of feel and Dusty [Baker] has come in here and made sure that it's loose, we're going to have fun, especially with Mike Maddux here... he's done some... crazy things with us already, stuff that can't even be repeated on air."
Some of the things that Maddux has done in his first few weeks of working that can be discussed have been little things, small tweaks he's suggested and advice he's given to the pitchers in camp with the Nats.
"In a side session I threw a bad curve that just spun," veteran reliever Sean Burnett told Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell:
"He said, ‘See your hand out directly in front of your nose’ at the release point. I’d never heard that in my whole career. The next pitch, my curveball was back."
Gio Gonzalez talked after his first start of the Spring about the changes in his mechanics the Nationals' new pitching coach suggested when he was asked about working faster than usual on the mound.
"These trips are long enough as it is," Gonzalez joked.
"No, it's definitely one of those things where it was the first time, you see a difference in the mechanics, no more looking down, looking away, it was more like just pick up the target now."
Maddux, Gonzalez explained in an interview on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. last week, suggested the left-hander stop looking down quickly as he began his delivery, and instead, "watch the strike zone the entire time."
"I think I can pick up my target a little bit more," Gonzalez said. His first start of the Spring gave him a chance to test out what Maddux suggested.
"It was a little different for me where I wanted to kind of like pace myself, but when you start something new you want to see where you go extremely all out and then make the adjustment to see where it goes from there."
The teaching didn't end when Gonzalez was done on the mound.
"Mike had me sit down and watch Bronson [Arroyo] throw a little bit," Gonzalez said, "and the whole time Bronson was picking up his target, staying on track and I think he had what...? The first twelve pitches were all strikes, then his first ball was in the second inning, so that's something that you can watch and learn from a guy where he's pounding the strike zone and being aggressive."
Maddux also suggested that reliever Blake Treinen work on his changeup as a way to attack left-handers, who have done a lot of damage against the sinker-balling right-hander.
"I'm going to need a changeup and I'm very pleased with the way it's come," Treinen told reporters, including MASN's Pete Kerzel after his two scoreless innings of work against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
"Mike's had some good input with me on how to throw it and trust it, and today, implementing in the game went really well. I was really happy with how the changeup worked today."
"[Maddux] just told me, 'Don't try to create it, just throw it to locate it,' " Treinen said. "Something simple like that has helped tremendously. I'm not trying to overthink it, just throw it."
Maddux talked to reporters this winter about how he would approach getting to know his new pitching staff and how he goes about preparing them once he joins a new team.
"I've got to understand them, see where they're coming from, cause at the end of the day, my job is to get the best out of them and help them get the best of themselves," Maddux explained.
"So how do you do that?" he asked rhetorically.
"First step is you've got to know them. And that's what I've got to do. Sit down, get to know the guys, let them know that this is a partnership. That we're here to help one another.
"I'm not out there to bark orders, 'You do this and you do that.' It's what do we need to do together to make this thing work."
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked about Maddux's ability to spot problems and suggest fixes for his pitchers when he first discussed the signing at Dusty Baker's introductory press conference.
"He's not only a mechanical expert with arm angles and tweaking of deliveries and that type of thing," Rizzo said.
"He's a mental skills expert. He really knows the ins and outs of pitching. He comes from a great pedigree, he's had great success and he's got a great resume. So, he's a guy that knows the whole gamut of the art of pitching and he comes with a respect factor from the players that's hard to beat."
Will Maddux end up being the biggest addition of the winter? Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals' front office hired a new manager and coaches, signed and acquired relievers, added a new second baseman and traded for a center fielder, but the Texas Rangers' decision to part ways with Maddux gave Washington an opportunity to add the well-regarded pitching coach, who is already making an impact on the Nats' staff.