Along with changes the Nationals made in the front office and scouting departments early this offseason, manager Davey Martinez decided to shake things up on Washington’s major league coaching staff.
Tim Bogar, who came on as a First Base coach, and served as Martinez’s Bench Coach, Pat Roessler, an Assistant Hitting coach, Gary DiSarcina, the Third Base coach, and Eric Young, Jr., the First Base coach, did not have their contracts with the club renewed.
Ricky Gutierrez, who served as the Run Prevention Coordinator last season, got promoted to the role of Third Base coach.
Gerardo Parra, part of the World Series championship roster in 2019, joined the Nats’ front office in 2022, and accepted a job as Martinez’s First Base coach.
Miguel Cairo, another former big leaguer, served as Tony LaRussa’s Bench Coach in 2021-2022 with Chicago’s White Sox, and was the New York Mets’ Minor League Infield Coordinator in 2023, and the one-time teammate of Martinez’s got the job as the skipper’s new Bench Coach.
Chris Johnson, a former infielder in the majors, was hired as the Nationals’ new Assistant Hitting Coach.
Martinez’s full 2023 coaching staff:
- Bench Coach – Miguel Cairo
- Hitting Coach – Darnell Coles
- Pitching Coach – Jim Hickey
- First Base Coach – Gerardo Parra
- Third Base Coach – Ricky Gutierrez
- Catching and Strategy Coach – Henry Blanco
- Bullpen Coach – Ricky Bones
- Assistant Hitting Coach – Chris Johnson
Considering he had personal history with a number of the coaches who ended up being replaced, it was not an easy choice for the manager, who signed a multi-year extension with the Nationals late in the 2023 season, but Martinez decided some changes made sense.
“Yeah, obviously it was a tough decision,” Martinez explained when he spoke with reporters at the recently-completed 2023 Winter Meetings.
“Very close to all those guys. I’m going to miss them. But I thought it was an opportunity, being where we’re headed, to bring some fresh guys in and some guys that are very well capable of coaching, and coaching young players. So I decided to make [those changes].”
“Miguel Cairo is going to be the Bench Coach,” Martinez continued. “Known him for years.
“He was a bench coach with Tony [LaRussa]. So, he learned a lot over there with them. I can’t say enough about him. He’s a baseball rat. Knows the game very well. He knows all aspects of the game. He’s done a lot in his career.
“As you know, we all know Parra. It’s just a matter of whether Parra was going to want to do it, and he committed to being a full-time coach.
“But he’ll bring a lot to our outfielders and our base running that we want to get better at.
“Ricky, who was with us last year, who did a great job with CJ Abrams, [Jeimer Candelario] — Cande loved him, so he gets the opportunity to coach third base.”
“So the other two guys,” Martinez added, “... two main guys in [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey and DC [Hitting Coach Darnell Coles] who I wanted to keep, I love those guys. Those guys work really hard, players really bought into what they want to do. They have gotten better, so they will be back.”
Having some familiar faces in new roles, the manager said, would help make the transition smoother for everyone involved.
Nationals’ GM and President of Baseball ops Mike Rizzo talked glowingly of Parra when he too discussed the decision to move the former Special Assistant to the GM into a new role on the major league staff.
“He’s going to be fired up, upbeat, 100 MPH,” Rizzo said. “But people forget he was a Gold Glove outfielder, he was a base-stealer, he had a cannon for an arm, he had great throwing mechanics, and we believe that he can really teach, especially this young group of guys that ultimately will be in the big leagues for us. Routes, angles, fundamentals, cut-off men, this type of thing, get your feet underneath you when you throw. And then on the baserunning side, he’s always been an excellent baserunner, a good base-stealer but an excellent baserunner who I think will teach us and improve our baserunning, which needs improvement.”
Parra’s familiarity with the players on the big league roster is a bonus, Martinez said. Same for Gutierrez.
“I think, one, Parra was around quite a bit,” he explained. “So he knows these guys. Ricky’s known these guys as well. The new guys, Miguel, and I talked to Miguel the other day, via Zoom, because he’s managing in Venezuela, he’s going to start reaching out. He wants to get to know the guys a little bit before he comes to Spring Training. So he’s going to start reaching out to guys and introduce himself.
“But I think these guys are well capable of doing the job. As you know, I don’t micromanage these guys. These guys are going to coach. They’re an extension of my voice, but they’re going to be allowed to do what they do. I’ve known these guys for years. I’ve known them as players, and I know them as a person as well. And they’re all in. They’re eager to get going. And we’ve been Zooming already about different things, and they’re ready to go.”
Johnson, who retired from his playing career in 2016, transitioned to coaching in 2021-22, and served as the White Sox’ Assistant Hitting coach in 2023. He’s a new face in D.C., but Martinez and his family have history.
“I’ve known his dad [former MLB player and coach Ron Johnson],” Martinez said, “but he’s, so far in his young career, he’s brought a lot. I heard nothing but great things about him.
“I interviewed him, talked to him. He knows a lot about hitting. I think he’s going to complement our team really well and help our kids out a lot.”