In reversal, Long will return as Nationals’ hitting coach

Kevin Long will be back as the Nationals’ hitting coach after all.

Long and the Nats agreed to reunite on a one-year deal, a source familiar with the terms confirmed this afternoon, a surprising reversal from what appeared to be a parting of ways between the two sides nearly two weeks ago.

Long, like everyone else on Davey Martinez’s coaching staff, had a contract that was set to expire Oct. 31. Martinez, who signed a long-term extension in September, has been seeking to have more say in the makeup of his staff, and this month he elected not to retain pitching coach Paul Menhart or third base coach Chip Hale.

Jim Hickey, who worked several years with Martinez at Tampa Bay, was hired this week to replace Menhart.

nats-nationals-park-overhead.jpgThe Nationals had informed Long, the club’s hitting coach the last three seasons, that he was free to pursue other opportunities. The news was reported and confirmed Oct. 10, and it was presumed he would wind up with another franchise.

But it appears the Nats’ offer of a one-year contract ultimately was best for Long, and so he agreed to return, the source said. MLB.com first reported the initial parting of ways and now today’s reunion.

It’s a surprising reversal, but then again the original report of Long’s departure caught many by surprise as well. A highly touted hitting coach who was at the forefront of the launch angle revolution over the last decade and was popular with hitters at previous stops with both the Yankees and Mets, he’s been well-liked by Nationals hitters who have been working with him the last three years.

The Nats offense did take a step back this season, though, falling to sixth in the National League in runs, 10th in homers and seventh in OPS.

The Nationals have not made any formal announcements about any coaching changes besides the hiring of Hickey. If the rest of Martinez’s staff (bench coach Tim Bogar, first base coach Bob Henley, bullpen coach Henry Blanco, assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler) has been retained, the only remaining hire would be for a new third base coach to replace Hale.

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