The Nationals have hired Derek Lilliquist as pitching coach, Tim Bogar as first base coach and Joe Dillon as assistant hitting coach, adding two more experienced members to new manager Dave Martinez’s staff plus another first-timer with ties to the organization.
In announcing the additions of Lilliquist, Bogar and Dillon along with the previously reported hiring of Chip Hale (bench coach), Bob Henley (third base coach) and Kevin Long (hitting coach), the Nationals have filled all but one position on their 2018 staff: bullpen coach.
Five of the six coaches hired so far (all but Dillon) have prior experience on major league staffs, an important qualification for a first-time manager like Martinez. All but Henley and Dillon come from outside the organization, underscoring the Nationals’ desire to revamp their staff after Dusty Baker and his coaches were let go last month.
Lilliquist is perhaps the most prominent outside addition, having spent the last six seasons as Cardinals pitching coach. The 51-year-old former big league lefty worked in St. Louis’ organization for 16 seasons in total, rising to the bullpen coach position under former manager Tony La Russa in 2011 and then taking over as pitching coach the following year after Dave Duncan stepped down.
Lilliquist was popular among Cardinals pitchers, who credited his ability to teach them new pitches, preach elevated fastballs (something catcher Matt Wieters encouraged this season upon arriving in Washington) and understand the rehab process (he previously served as the organization’s pitching rehab coordinator).
The Cardinals staff typically ranked among the league’s best in recent years, but that unit’s collective ERA rose beyond the 4.00 mark each of the last two seasons. The organization chose not to renew Lilliquist’s contract when it expired last month, with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak saying at the time he preferred someone who better understood “modern strategy, modern analytics” in leading a pitching staff.
St. Louis wound up hiring Mike Maddux, the highly regarded coach who served under Baker the last two seasons in Washington and suddenly found himself a free agent when the Nationals’ entire staff was not renewed. Thus, the Nats and Cardinals end up making something of a one-for-one trade of pitching coaches.
Hale, 52, will serve as Martinez’s right-hand man in the dugout, bringing a wealth of experience with him. The former major league infielder was Diamondbacks manager from 2015-16, the Athletics bench coach from 2012-14 and served as third base coach for the D-backs (2007-09), Mets (2010-11) and A’s (2017). Prior to all that, Hale was a minor league manager for Arizona.
Bogar, 51, fits right in age-wise with most of the new staff, and he likewise has extensive experience. The former major league utility player was the Mariners bench coach under manager Scott Servais the last two seasons and has nine total seasons on big league staffs on his resume (including a brief stint as Rangers interim manager in 2014 after Ron Washington resigned).
Though Long - given his decade of experience as hitting coach for the Yankees and Mets - will carry significant weight in creating the Nationals’ offensive approach, he’ll have help from Dillon, who already knows many of the players on the roster.
The 42-year-old former infielder was hitting coach for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse from 2014-15 before joining the Marlins as minor league hitting coordinator the last two seasons. This will be Dillon’s first time on a major league coaching staff.
Henley is the lone holdover from Baker’s staff, returning for his fifth season as third base coach. The 44-year-old former catcher will be working for his third different manager with the Nats, having also been on Matt Williams’ staff. He’s entering his 24th season with the franchise, having played, coached and managed for various minor league affiliates going back to its days as the Expos.