New bench coach Knorr has to think for himself

VIERA, Fla. - Randy Knorr may be new to his role as the Nationals’ bench coach, but he’s not unfamiliar with the team or the inner workings of a major league club. Knorr played 11 years in the bigs as a catcher and spent two tours of duty as a bullpen coach with the Nationals. He skippered in the team’s farm system for six seasons, including last year at Triple-A Syracuse.

The most important thing about being a bench coach, Knorr said, is the ability to know how the manager you’re working with thinks, but not necessarily thinking exactly like him. In other words, it’s fine for Knorr to have a good handle on how Davey Johnson likes to handle pitchers, what kind of pinch-hitting strategies he likes to employ or how he likes to play the cat-and-mouse game that forces opponents to match their hitters against his bullpen arms. But Knorr can’t just be a yes man.

“You try to get on the same page, but the one thing about Davey is he’s going to know if you’re trying to say what he thinks,” Knorr said. “He wants you to tell him what you think. And that’s pretty much how I am. I try to tell people what I think, not what I think they should hear. Maybe that’s why he likes me in that position.”

Knorr replaces Pat Corrales as Johnson’s right-hand man, and he’s the only change in the major league staff from last season. Johnson had several qualified candidates from which to choose, but opted for Knorr over third base coach Bo Porter. Both Porter and Knorr are considered to be potential future major league skippers.

In spring training, while he’s learning Johnson’s tendencies, Knorr has been tasked with running workouts, especially the drills focused on fundamentals. Johnson has mentioned on a couple of occasions this spring how pleased he is with the crispness of those drills.

Because he was a catcher, Knorr has a unique perspective from which to draw upon.

“Not only do we have a different view, but the game is ran through the catcher so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the manager’s thinking while catching,” he explained. “He’s trying to run it through me and most of the conversations that are done before the game are done through the catcher. The manager’s going to go to the catcher if something’s going on with the pitcher, and that’s why I think catchers are put in that position. In a sense, they’ve been managing all along. It’s just someone’s been telling them what to do. Hopefully, along the way, you pick some stuff up.”

While Johnson will handle the bulk of the managerial duties this spring, Knorr could get a chance to run the club March 10, when the Nationals are scheduled for split-squad games at home against the Mets and in Lakeland, Fla., against the Tigers. Traditionally, the manager takes the home game, which would leave the road trip to Joker Marchant Stadium for Knorr.

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