Henley, Knorr won’t return to MLB staff, will remain with Nats

Longtime Nationals coaches Bob Henley and Randy Knorr will not return to the major league staff next season, though both will remain in the organization in player development roles, a source familiar with the changes confirmed.

Henley, the club’s third base coach for seven of the last eight seasons, and Knorr, the club’s first base coach this season after previous stints as bench coach and bullpen coach, are the only members of manager Davey Martinez’s staff who weren’t invited to return to their 2021 roles, the source said.

Bench coach Tim Bogar, pitching coach Jim Hickey, hitting coach Kevin Long, assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler and bullpen coach Henry Blanco all have been given the option to return in 2022, but it’s possible one or more could seek other opportunities elsewhere if they wish.

The news, first reported by The Washington Post, comes one week after the Nationals wrapped up a hugely disappointing 65-97 season that saw the front office trade away eight key veterans and embark on a major rebuilding project only two years after the franchise won its first World Series title.

Martinez hinted at the possibility of coaching changes last weekend, confirming only that Hickey would return for a second season as pitching coach while declining to publicly make the same commitment to the rest of his big league staff.

“We’re going to sit down,” the manager said Oct. 2 prior to the second-to-last game of the season. “(General manager Mike Rizzo) and I are going to sit down and talk about all these things Monday. We’ve got meetings going on this week, so we’re going to hone in on everything.”

Henley and Knorr are among the longest-tenured members of the organization, both having begun working while the franchise was still playing in Montreal, both having held multiple coaching roles in the ensuing years.

Henley, 48, was drafted by the Expos in 1991 and appeared in 41 big league games in 1998. Upon retiring following the 2002 season, the former catcher immediately became manager of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Expos. He managed at Rookie-level and Single-A through 2009, then served as field coordinator for the entire minor league system for four years before being promoted to third base coach on Matt Williams’ big league staff in 2014.

Henley coached third base for the Nationals from 2014-19, surviving two managerial changes, switched to first base in 2020, then went back to third base this season. An aggressive waver of runners around the base, he also served as the team’s outfield instructor despite having not played the position himself.

Knorr-white-sidebar.jpgKnorr, 52, played in 253 big league games (mostly with the Blue Jays) and finished out his career as a catcher for the Expos, making his final major league appearance in 2001 before three more seasons at Triple-A. Upon retiring, he, too, immediately joined the Nationals as a minor league manager, first with low Single-A Savannah, where he wound up as Ryan Zimmerman’s first professional skipper.

Knorr managed at high Single-A Potomac to begin the 2006 season, then was promoted to major league bullpen coach in June after John Wetteland was fired by manager Frank Robinson. He returned to manage Potomac from 2007-08, was back as big league bullpen coach in 2009 under Manny Acta and Jim Riggleman, and managed Double-A Harrisburg in 2010 and Triple-A Syracuse in 2011.

He was back on the major league staff in 2012 as Davey Johnson’s bench coach and continued to hold that role through the 2015 season, serving as Williams’ right hand man after the latter was hired for the job over him. Knorr switched to an adviser role in player development for the 2016-17 seasons but returned to manage at Triple-A in 2018-19, then led the alternate training site in Fredericksburg during the pandemic shortened 2020 season.

These coaching changes come as the Nationals seek to re-evaluate their entire baseball operations department following back-to-back losing seasons and the July sell-off. Rizzo has hinted that changes are also coming to his front office, scouting and player development departments.

Martinez, returning for his fifth season as big league manager, has control over his staff and figures to seek replacements for Henley and Knorr who (among other things) have some background in baserunning and outfield instruction.

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