Martinez saw chance to "bring some fresh guys in" with coaching changes

NASHVILLE – When it came time to evaluate his coaching staff at the end of the season, Davey Martinez knew it was time to make some changes. Even if it meant parting ways with some longtime confidants.

Tim Bogar was one of Martinez’s first hires after he was named Nationals manager in 2018, initially serving as first base coach before moving to bench coach. Pat Roessler joined the staff in 2020 as assistant hitting coach. Gary DiSarcina and Eric Young Jr. were added in 2022.

All are now gone, replaced by two in-house promotions and two outside additions in the biggest coaching staff shakeup Martinez has made in six years on the job.

“Obviously, it was a tough decision,” Martinez said today, his first public remarks since the moves were made in October. “Very close to all those guys. I’m going to miss them. But I thought it was an opportunity, being where we’re headed, to bring some fresh guys in, and some guys that are very well capable of coaching young players.”

The two in-house promotions: Ricky Gutierrez (who spent this season in the newly created position of run prevention coordinator) is now third base coach, while Gerardo Parra (who won the 2019 World Series as a player and then took on a front-office role in 2022) was named first base coach.

The two outside additions: Miguel Cairo (formerly Tony La Russa’s bench coach with the White Sox) will hold that same role in D.C., while Chris Johnson (former big league third baseman) will be the new assistant hitting coach.

The way Martinez spoke about them, these were calculated moves with some specific ideas in mind.

Cairo, 49, has been on Martinez’s radar since the two were teammates in Tampa Bay in 1998. The former major league infielder has long been viewed as a future manager, and he got the chance to take the helm for the White Sox on an interim basis when La Russa had to step away for medical reasons in 2022. He’ll now be the right-hand man in the dugout in D.C.

“He reminds me a lot of me,” Martinez said. “He’s very engaged in the game. He’s done everything possible in the game, but he’s a student of the game as well. He’s eager to teach. … He’s very opinionated. That’s what I like about him.”

The new base coaches share a common trait: Each was known for his defensive prowess as a player. And now each will be tasked with improving the Nationals’ glove work, Gutierrez in the infield and Parra in the outfield.

Gutierrez, 53, was credited with helping shortstop CJ Abrams develop this year. He’ll now oversee the entire infield.

“What I loved about Ricky, he was always engaged in every part of the game,” Martinez said. “Even though he was the infield coach, he watched everything that went on. And when I got a chance to interview him, he was spot on. He was really spot on about the game and what he wanted to do, and what he wanted to teach younger players. I’m really excited about having him full-time now and having him over at third base.”

Parra, 36, becomes a full-time coach for the first time after spending his first two years of retirement in a special assistant role that allowed him to be with his family more. When the season ended, though, he expressed an interest in returning to a big league dugout and clubhouse on a daily basis.

“I was just waiting for the right time with him, when he wanted to go full-time, with young kids at home,” Martinez said. “He came to me and we talked a lot. And he was ready to make that step.”

Johnson, 39, is the other newcomer to the Nationals. A former third baseman mostly with the Astros and Braves, he was the White Sox’s assistant hitting coach. He now comes to D.C. to work with Darnell Coles, who along with pitching coach Jim Hickey, catching coach Henry Blanco and bullpen coach Ricky Bones were retained from the 2023 staff.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things about him,” Martinez said. “I interviewed him, talked to him. I think he’s going to complement our team really well and help our kids out a lot.”

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