Former major league catcher Randy Knorr begins a new challenge with the Nationals’ organization as manager Davey Johnson’s right hand-man - he’s the new bench coach in the first base dugout. Knorr has been managing parts of six seasons in the franchise’s system, most recently as the skipper for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs.
Knorr has been with the Nationals before. He served as Nationals’ bullpen coach for parts of the 2006 season and the complete 2009 schedule. While he enjoys any role with the big club, being in the home dugout is his favorite.
“I am fired up I am on the bench this time,” Knorr said. “That bullpen stuff, that was difficult for me. I know guys that can do it, but (not me). I need to be be on the bench and running my own team. I am sitting down (in the bullpen, and it’s) nothing (against) the job the guys are doing in there, but I felt so removed. Now I get to work with one of the best in the game in Davey.”
Knorr said the rapport he has developed with Johnson over the years will be a key element in team strategy during critical junctures of a game. He remembers a particular moment in 2011 when Johnson came to him for such advice.
“One thing about Davey that he does is he will test you all the time and make you think,” Knorr said. “He already knows the answer of what he wants to do but he just is going to ask you what your thoughts are.
“I remember he asked me when I got up there, ‘Would you bring (Collin) Balester or (Craig) Stammen in here to get out of the inning if (the starter) gets in trouble here?’ I think it was the fifith or sixth inning at that point and the pitch count was getting up. The starter was kind of laboring a little bit.
“I said, ‘Well, if you bring Stammen in he could get you the ground ball, or if you bring Balester in he might get you the punch out but he also might give up the 500-foot home run.’ (Davey) just looked at me and so I figured I gave him the right answer.”
The game went on and was completed. During postgame in the clubhouse, Knorr sought out his manager.
“So, it was weighing on me the whole day,” Knorr recollected. “After the game I went up to him and I go, ‘When you asked me that question in the fifth, was that answer you wanted?’
“He said, ‘no, I wanted you to tell me who to bring in! I knew (what you said). You didn’t have to tell me what I knew!’ He just wanted my opinion. He wanted to know what I was thinking at that time.
“I probably would have had both guys going (in bullpen). If there were guys on base, I probably would have brought Stammen in and if there were maybe two outs when the hitter got up there I would have brought Balester to see if he could punch the guy out.”
There you go.
That trust between two baseball minds that have managed in several situations for many years, and are again working side by side in 2012, will be critical to helping the Nationals as they challenge for contention in the heated National League East.