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Eckstein on the Nats’ lineup

Jun 3, 2011, 12:32 AM EDT

PHOENIX — As his team has struggled much of the season to produce offensively, Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein has remained mostly out of the public eye. Restricted from speaking to reporters by general manager Mike Rizzo, Eckstein has been mostly holed up where he spends the bulk of his day: In the batting cage, tirelessly working with his players.

Eckstein admits he takes the Nationals' offensive woes personally; it's all part of being a coach at the big-league level. He's also encouraged by what he's seen over the last week or two. After their batting average bottomed out at .223 following back-to-back shutouts in New York May 18-19, the Nationals have hit .267 over their last 12 games, averaging 4.8 runs (up from 3.7).

Earlier this evening, before the Nationals took batting practice at Chase Field for the opener of a four-game series with the Diamondbacks, Eckstein was made available to reporters for the first time in about four weeks. Here's the full transcript of his group session…

On what he's seen in recent days from the Nats' lineup:
RICK ECKSTEIN: "Things have started to come together a little bit. There's been an excitement as this last series against Philadelphia. Guys are starting to settle in. There's starting to get a little moreRead more ยป

  1. Oldguy - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    Comments by players recently confirm their confidence in Rick Eckstein. Hitting a baseball traveling at 80-100 mph is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Change comes gradually. Good hitters go into slumps. Lesser hitters have hot streaks. The coach is there to help. He's not a magician. Everything we have seen recently tells me this could be a very powerful lineup–maybe sooner than we expect. Eckstein is doing a good job.

  2. JayB - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    Mark,The question has to be about taking called 3rd Strikes! Specifically Jason W…..WHat is he looking for with 2 Strikes and why does he look so confused when he watches strike 3 right over the plate….NO ONE ASKED ABOUT THE STRIKE OUTS LOOKING?

  3. RickH - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    Keep those hits coming!!!

  4. JaneB - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    Thanks for this interview, Mark Z! You're the best.

  5. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    Talks a good game.

  6. Joe Seamhead - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:24 AM

    I'm with JayB.I have never seen a team take so many called third strikes, and I would have liked that to have been addressed by Coach Eckstein. That said, I still really enjoyed the interview.

  7. Anonymous8 - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Bryce Harper 2-3 so far tonight and he got picked off on that move when a player is on 1st and 3rd and the pitcher wheels towards 3rd and then to 1st and got Harper.Bet that won't again!

  8. Oldguy - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:34 AM

    For Eckstein to address specific situations regarding individual hitters would be the height of folly. There are scouts at every Nats game, and as part of their jobs, they check the local media. They also share information. If Eckstein talked specifically about Werth or any other player except in general terms, it would wind up in opposing teams' game books and would be used against us.

  9. Anonymous - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    Very good stuff Mark. Thanks for finding a way to make the trip to Arizona. Nats Insider and CSN are the better for it.

  10. bobn - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:25 AM

    what is going on in mlb? I have never seen averages so low. Dead ball? Weird strike zones?

  11. JaneB - Jun 3, 2011 at 4:16 AM

    Sports Illustrated did a piece on this in a recent issue…I piled up a few to read and can't recall which, but last three weeks…that said it's pitching, and more outs on balls put in play.

  12. Bill B - Jun 3, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    Bobn: I heard an interview with Bill James, in which he said that April and May were cold months this year and that has suppressed batting averages.

  13. NatsJack in Florida - Jun 3, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Oldguy….. good call. I have a friend who is a HUGE Phillies fan and says that "get used to called third strikes on Werth". Eckstein or anybody else isn't going to change that.Eck does have an opportunity with Desmond who has shown a bit more plate discipline lately. And Eck is just scratching the surface with Espinosa.Last December, Eckstein had just gotten back from Puerto Rico where he had spent a week in Winter ball with Danny working on shortening his stroke from the left side but Danny broke his hammate bone within days of his visit so his developemnet was delayed.These things don't get changed over nite. All one has to do is refer to Jose Bautista to see how long it takes to tinker with a hitting approach till the right combo clicks.

  14. BowieNat - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    You can tell how personally invested Eck is in every at bat and every player. Count how many times he uses "we" when talking about Michael Morse, "we didn't really swing the bat that bad. We just missed our pitch. We would foul our pitch back. And they're grinding the at-bats out, and when it's all said and done, the at-bat said we didn't execute. But we're starting to not miss our pitch. We're starting to do little things when it comes to our offense."

  15. Doc - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    @ Oldguy & NatsJack in FloridaI was thinking the same thing as Eckstein was being asked questions. As a reader, I wanted to hear more. But yeah, Eckstein's not going to blab the secret receipe. He stuck to motivational stuff. If you watch the games closely you can see what the hitters are working on. Knight does a really good job of analyzing hitting situations and batting techniques.Hitting and hitting habits are hard things to work on. Changing something that's been a routine for 10-15 years is not easily done. Eckstein did highlight the terms 'consistency' and 'focus' which is what the pitcher is also trying to do from his end of the game.Thanks for the interview Mark!

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