Tonight, Matt Williams makes his return to Phoenix where he was a coach for the Diamondbacks, but now he is in his new role as the manager of the Nationals.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson was excited to see his old friend back in Arizona, but that doesn’t change his competitive fire to try to beat the opponent.
“I want to beat his (butt), too,” Gibson said. “That is mutual. But (Williams) does it right. We have a lot in common. Just the way we were brought up. We talked a lot when he was here. It will be interesting to see what changes he has made in his philosophies.”
Williams was told of Gibson’s comments and admitted he felt the same way back to his former boss with Arizona.
“I think I will take a piece of his book today,” Williams said. “A little birdy told me that he said something to the effect that, ‘I want to win, but he wants to beat my (butt).’ I would echo those thoughts. So we want to win. That is why we are here. We are here to beat those guys and hopefully we can do that. ... He started it, so I will go back.”
Williams said when he was considering the Nationals’ vacancy, his Diamondbacks colleagues and members of the team’s front office were more than gracious in helping his pursuit of the job.
“Everybody through the whole process was nothing but supportive in every aspect,” Williams said. “Everybody was very supportive of my desire to do this and if that opportunity came with another organization, they were behind it. And that is refreshing because they want success for folks. I never had anything but support from everybody.”
But the Nationals and Williams arrive after a tough series in Oakland where they lost three straight by a combined score of 21-4.
“We concentrate so much on what has happened lately,” Williams said. “You look back four days ago and we are in a pretty good spot. And then three games go haywire and you are not in that good spot anymore. We need to work back to where we were four days ago. Hopefully start that tonight.”
Part of the problem with the Nationals this season and their 19-18 record has been their inconsistent defense. Has the implementation of a new coach who concentrates just on proper shifting of the defense been the culprit? Williams doesn’t believe that is the reason.
“If you really looked at it, we shift less than most teams,” Williams said. “It is a question of picking the ball up. There were some things early. We had a lot of transfer rule stuff early. And we weren’t alone. The majority of it has just been errors that can be turned into outs. There are a lot of statistics kind of put forth in that regard. Bottom line is we’ve got to catch the ball better. We’ve got really good athletes on our team that play the game really well. Today it hasn’t gone so well. Again, we work every day at it and we concentrate on it and try to get better. That is all we can do.”
Williams updated Ryan Zimmerman (thumb) and said the third baseman got an X-ray today, but the Nats don’t have the results yet.
Williams did have a promising progress report on Bryce Harper’s recovery from thumb ligament surgery.
“Bryce got his stitches out, which is good,” Williams said. “He is on the road to recovery. He can start his next phase of rehab, so he can actually probably take a shower now. That is good.”