The challenges of being a first-time skipper (Souza added to 40-man)

Matt Williams has been around professional baseball for 27 years. He played 17 years in the big leagues, spent a few years getting a different perspective on the game when he worked as a Diamondbacks broadcaster and has been a part of Arizona’s coaching staff for the last four seasons.

Williams has seen pretty much everything there is to see in pro baseball. His knowledge of the game is vast. But there is one aspect of Williams’ resume that is lacking as he takes the newest leap in his career.

He has very little managerial experience. Actually, he has barely any managerial experience.

Williams, who was officially announced as the Nationals’ new manager yesterday, has only once been a manager - last year, when he served as the skipper of the Arizona Fall League’s Salt River Rafters.

It was a chance for Williams to get a taste of what life is like in the managerial chair, but it was brief. And then Williams went back to his role as Diamondbacks third base coach.

None of this is to say that Williams won’t be a good manager, or even a great one. Plenty of guys have had loads of success their first time serving as a manager, including some in recent years. (Mike Matheny, anyone?)

But even general manager Mike Rizzo knows that Williams will face challenges this season as he adjusts to his new role for the first time outside of the AFL.

“I think the beginning is getting to know your players,” Rizzo said, when asked about what the toughest part of being a first-time skipper might be. “Being comfortable with the clubhouse, being comfortable with the 25 different makeups and 25 different types of people that you have to manage in the clubhouse and getting to know them. Getting to know their strengths and weaknesses as a player, getting to know them personally, getting to know how to affect them positively and a knowledge of the person.

“I think Matt’s going to dive into that. He’s going to certainly touch base with each and every player, have a conversation with them and probably see a whole bunch of them before spring training even starts.”

As I mentioned before, having Randy Knorr remain on as Nats bench coach will certainly help Williams in that regard. Knorr can brief Williams on how each player in the Nationals’ clubhouse responds best to coaching and what makes each guy tick. And Knorr will be there if the players need some sort of buffer, someone on the coaching staff that they trust and can confide in during the early stages.

Williams has been in enough big league clubhouses to know how best to motivate players and how to get them playing at their best. That shouldn’t be much of a problem in D.C.

Getting comfortable with the players, their personalities and skill sets might take a little time, but the Nats feel confident that Williams is up to the task.

Programming note: If you happen to be near a TV this afternoon at 2 p.m., be sure to flip on MASN HD, where we’ll be airing Williams’ introductory press conference live. The press conference will also stream live on

Unfortunately, I won’t be there because I’m leaving town in a couple hours for a Friday wedding, but my colleagues Byron Kerr and Pete Kerzel will have you covered on all that’s discussed during the presser here on

Update: The Nationals announced that they’ve added minor league outfielder Steven Souza to their 40-man roster, preventing him from being taken in this winter’s Rule 5 draft.

Souza, a third-round pick back in 2007, hit .300/.396/.557 with 15 home runs in 77 games with Double-A Harrisburg this season. The 24-year-old also had a strong 2012 campaign, hitting .297/.366/.572 with 23 homers between low Single-A Hagerstown and high Single-A Potomac.

With Dan Haren and Chad Tracy now officially off the 40-man as they prepare to hit free agency, the Nats officially have 38 guys on their 40-man roster, with left-hander Ross Detwiler and righty Christian Garcia still technically on the 60-day disabled list.

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