Knorr excited to return as bench coach (plus McCatty note)

Randy Knorr might not have gotten the Nationals’ managerial job, but he will return as the team’s bench coach next season. And Knorr says he’s thrilled to be back in that role.

Knorr, who had been one of a handful of candidates to interview for the Nats’ managerial vacancy, finalized his deal to return as bench coach today, he said. General manager Mike Rizzo and new Nationals manager Matt Williams both reached out to Knorr last week and let him know they hoped he would take the bench coach job, and after taking some time to work out terms, Knorr is officially back with the Nats.

“I always said before that I feel like this group of guys has a chance to win a championship,” Knorr said in a phone conversation this afternoon. “I’ve always said it. I feel that way. I want to be a part of it, and if I can’t manage in the big leagues, the best thing in the game is to be a part of the Nationals.

“My ultimate goal is to manage in the big leagues, but if there’s nothing out there for me, I don’t want to do anything else than be with this group of guys. They’re great. They’ve got good chemistry, they play well together and I’ve been around them a long time.”

Knorr has spoken with Williams a couple of times since the Nationals made the decision to go with the former Diamondbacks third base coach as their next manager, but the two men haven’t really had a chance to talk in great detail. Knorr will be at tomorrow’s press conference introducing Williams as skipper, and he’ll likely get to sit down with Williams and chat a bit at some point during the day.

Knorr has been in the Nationals’ organization since 2005, and has spent the last two years as bench coach. He managed a number of current Nats players when they were working their way up the minor league ranks, and has become a trusted coach on the Nats’ staff.

Rizzo made sure to note in a conference call today that any coaches that stay with the Nats are being kept around largely because of their coaching ability and the work they’ve done fine-tuning players’ skills. But Knorr’s comfort level with the players as well as his knowledge of the talent level of the organization as a whole likely played a part in Rizzo and Williams wanting Knorr to return.

“I can’t answer for Matt, but I think that’s what he’s thinking, that having me around, knowing the players’ personalities and how they react to things, it’ll help him get going a little faster,” Knorr said. “Because these guys, they knew each other, but it’s not easy for anyone to just jump in here and people not know them and try to establish who you are and how you are when these guys have been together for such a long time.”

As the regular season started to wind down, Knorr heard more and more players being quoted in the media as saying that they hoped that Knorr would get the Nats’ managerial job once Davey Johnson stepped aside. Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Tyler Clippard were among those who put their support behind Knorr, and even though he didn’t get the job, Knorr says that having the backing of many players meant the world to him.

“That was awesome,” Knorr said. “You go through your whole career hoping that as an instructor or a coach or a manager or whatever capacity that you’re in, that you’ve reached some of the players, whether they get to the big leagues or not. Not only in baseball, but in character and how they go about things in baseball and in life. Just tells me that some of them respected what I’ve been through with them in the minor leagues or at the big league level at some point.”

It’s been an interesting few weeks for Knorr, who interviewed for his dream job, sat back and waited for a response, was told he was being passed over and then was asked to return in his previous role. But Knorr, as positive a man as you’ll come across, has taken the whole process in stride.

“I’ve never been through the interview process before, and it was a privilege to go through that,” Knorr said. “That was pretty exciting. After I did the interview, I felt like, ‘Hey, I might have a shot at this.’ And then when it didn’t happen, there was a little bit of disappointment in there, because I’ve always wanted to manage and see what I could do in the big leagues, but I’m a guy that just, hey, that was yesterday. Let’s move on. I didn’t get it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Move on, get better, get better at what do.

“Somewhere down the road, somebody might think of you in that respect, but in the moment, just try to keep getting guys better. That’s what I like to do.”

On another note, there is nothing official regarding pitching coach Steve McCatty’s future with the organization just yet, but a source familiar with the situation says that McCatty is likely to return in his previous role.

Like Knorr, McCatty is well-liked within the Nats’ clubhouse and he’s built a strong rapport with many of the pitchers. McCatty has served as the Nats’ pitching coach since the middle of the 2009 season, when he replaced the fired Randy St. Claire.

Rizzo said today that he doesn’t expect the Nats’ coaching staff to undergo a major “transformation,” and if both Knorr and McCatty return, two key components of the team’s staff in previous seasons will remain in place.

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