I caught up with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman a few minutes ago to discuss the hiring of Bo Porter as the Nationals’ new third base coach. Riggleman had Porter as a player for part of the 1999 season when he was managing the Cubs, and said he reconnected with Porter when he was working in the Cardinals’ organization. The Cardinals share a spring training complex with the Marlins, and Riggleman saw plenty of Porter when he was the Marlins’ third base coach.
One thing to get out of the way first: Porter is still a candidate for the Marlins’ and Pirates’ managerial openings, though the Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer tweeteda few minutes ago that interim manager Edwin Rodriguez is expected to keep the job. But if Porter is hired as a manager somewhere else, the Nationals will have to look again for a third base coach. It’s a similar situation to the one RIggleman found himself in after the 2008 season, when he accepted a job as the Nationals’ bench coach while he was still a candidate to be the Mariners’ manager.
That said, Porter was clearly the guy the Nationals wanted when they found out Pat Listach might leave to be the Cubs’ bench coach. Riggleman said general manager Mike Rizzo told him to start putting together a list of replacements for Listach about a week ago, though Listach hadn’t heard anything official at that point. But Porter was at the top of Riggleman’s list, and was one of the first names Rizzo mentioned.
“I had a very long conversation with Bo yesterday,” Riggleman said. “Before that, Mike’s conversations with him were some philosophical, some contractual, Bo is clearly the choice for both of us.”
The former outfielder worked extensively with Josh Willingham when both were in Florida, and will be responsible for coaching the Nationals’ outfielders. Riggleman will take over coaching the infielders, replacing Listach in that capacity and getting some hands-on instruction with the Nationals’ young middle infield of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Bench coach John McLaren will also work with infielders.
Porter’s emphasis, Riggleman said, will be “more of the same” of what the Nationals have been trying to do, emphasizing fundamentals and cutting down on mistakes. That didn’t work as well as the team would have hoped last year - the Nationals were third in the NL with 127 errors - but in talking about the approach for next year, as well as the decision to retain the rest of his 2010 coaching staff, Riggleman stood by the effort his staff put in last season.
“The record’s not going to indicate how hard people worked,” he said. “There may be some fans who feel like we’re satisfied with what took place. We are satisfied with work coaches put in, but we’ve got keep working and get better.”