SAN DIEGO - The Nationals are shuffling three of their coaches to new positions for the 2020 season, with Tim Bogar taking over as bench coach, Chip Hale moving to third base coach and Bob Henley switching to first base coach.
Every member of Davey Martinez’s World Series winning staff returns next season, with one exception: Pat Roessler has been hired as assistant hitting coach, replacing Joe Dillon, who accepted the lead hitting coach’s job with the Phillies last month.
That means three staffers are back in their same roles: pitching coach Paul Menhart (who has been hired full-time after taking over on an interim basis in May), hitting coach Kevin Long and bullpen coach Henry Blanco.
The shifting of roles between Bogar, Hale and Henley is the biggest change, one Martinez said is being made so each coach can get “a different perspective” and avoid “getting stagnant” on the heels of a World Series title.
“For me, getting a different voice,” Martinez said. “I thought about this for many years after winning, and having been around for 10 years: Doing some different things, I think it would great for these guys, to see a different perspective of the game.”
Hale, who had been Martinez’s bench coach the last two seasons, now replaces Henley at third base, a high-profile position that often has a direct impact on the outcome of games. The 55-year-old has three years of big league experience as third base coach with the Mets and Athletics, plus time in the minor leagues. He filled in for one game this season when Henley was away at his daughter’s graduation (coincidentally the day the Nationals got swept by the Mets and fell to a season-worst 19-31) and proved to be an aggressive and energetic figure on the field.
Henley is the longest tenured member of the Nationals staff, having been with the organization since 2003 (when it was still based in Montreal). He joined the big league staff in 2014 as Matt Williams’ third base coach and has held that role ever since, surviving two managerial changes.
Popular with players, Henley did become known for his aggressive style at third base, earning him the nickname “Sendley” and a reputation for getting runners thrown out at the plate. Martinez said he wanted to make it clear to Henley (who also serves as the Nationals’ outfield instructor and has received credit for helping mentor Juan Soto and Victor Robles) that this move across the diamond shouldn’t be thought of as a demotion.
“What he’s done with our outfielders, I want him to be more engaged, really,” Martinez said. “Because Juan’s gotten better, Victor’s gotten better. He’s always there. He’s been unbelievable for years. But I want to kind of give him another avenue, another perspective.”
Henley had interviewed for the Padres’ managerial opening in October, just as Bogar interviewed for the Mets’ job. Martinez believes the more diverse their coaching experience is, the more attractive they might be to future potential employers.
“I think once you show all these different teams what you can do, people like that,” the manager said. “They really do.”
Bogar has a wealth of experience at several coaching positions and now returns to the role of bench coach, something he previously did for the Red Sox, Rangers and Mariners.
“I told him: ‘You deserve a chance to manage,’ ” Martinez said. “He’s really good. And when he didn’t get the (Mets) job, I did tell him, ‘I’m glad you’re back.’ He didn’t know what we were going to do. But when I called him and told him we’re going to move him to bench coach ... he said: ‘That’s a great idea. I would’ve never thought of that.’ “
Though it had become a no-brainer over the course of the season, today’s announcement was official confirmation of Menhart’s promotion to full-time pitching coach. A longtime coach and coordinator in the Nationals farm system, he replaced the fired Derek Lilliquist in early May and immediately became a trusted voice for the big league pitching staff.
“He did really, really well,” Martinez said. “He knows these guys. These guys appreciate him, and after talking to our pitchers and bullpen guys, they appreciate him and like him. And he’s got an opportunity to come back here and do it again.”
Roessler is the only newcomer to the 2020 staff, hired to replace Dillon and work alongside Long. The two were previously together with the Mets, and Roessler took over as New York’s hitting coach in 2017 after Long moved to Washington. The 59-year-old has ties to the franchise going back to 2000-01, when he was the Expos’ hitting coach.
“I’ve known Pat for a long time,” Martinez said. “Unbelievable baseball guy. I feel like he fits in. As you know, my staff is a bunch of baseball rats, and he is one of those guys.”