Rizzo, Acta On Pitching Coach Change
[NOTE: I "new-posted" so quickly, but please note the news below about Flores.]
After the Nats "relieved pitching coach Randy St. Claire of his duties today" -- team PR speak -- and replaced him with Class AAA pitching coach Steve McCatty, acting GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Manny Acta held a joint press conference. Transcript follows.
RIZZO (opening statement): Well I just want to simply announce that, as everyone knows, we've replaced Randy St. Claire as major league pitching coach with Steve McCatty. Randy has been a loyal employee here for seven years and was a diligent worker and really did a nice job throughout his career here. As you all know we've struggled mightily with the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen, throughout the season and like we've been saying since the start of spring training, everybody is accountable for their part in the team, and we felt that a change was imminent and needed to be done at this time. So, with that, we replaced Randy with Steve McCatty, who has familiarity with most of the pitchers on the ballclub and brings years of experience both as an active player and as a long-time pitching coach to this very young starting rotation.
ACTA (opening statement): Well it's very unfortunate, because you don't want to see anyone lose their job, but we are all hired to be fired someday, and we are all accountable for what's going on here. The organization, we decided to make a change, and we're looking forward to working now with Steve. He's familiar with most of our guys. I'm very thankful for everything that Randy did over here. I think he's an outstanding pitching coach. This is a long-term plan here, and we're going to have some painful times. We've already had some, and changes have been made already, and probably will continue to be made until we make this franchise a winning one for a long time.
Q: What can you tell us about Steve?
RIZZO: Steve, I would reference him as an old-school pitching coach. He goes back to the days where pitchers pitched a lot of innings and they were really tough burly guys on the mound, and I think he's gonna bring an edge to the pitching staff, a toughness, and kind of a really tough-minded mindset not only to the starting rotation but to the bullpen guys, too.
Q: The change, was it made at your suggestion, Manny's suggestion?
RIZZO: Well, it was my suggestion that we needed a change. Manny and I discussed the situation, and I made the decision that I thought we needed a change at pitching coach.
Q: We all know how hard St. Claire worked. Why was it that some of the staff just didn't perform?
RIZZO: Well, it's a very in-depth question, but a lot of things go into the success and failure not only of a pitching staff, but a team in general. Like I said, I don't think we have time to go into a real in-depth answer. It wasn't all Randy's fault. Sometimes the material he had to work with wasn't always as good as we would want it to be. We tried to make changes to find the right formula to hit on the right bullpen. I thought we've seen signs most recently of a bullpen that's trying to stabilize, and I think that with Steve coming into the picture with the knowledge of a lot of guys that have gone through Syracuse I think we can bring even more stabilization to the bullpen.
Q: Mike, as you kind of alluded to with the stabilization of the bullpen in the last 10 days or two weeks, why was the time now to make this change?
RIZZO: Well I think the numbers speak for themselves. We were last in the major leagues in nine major pitching categories, and I thought we needed a new voice to the young ears of the starting rotation and to get a kind of stabilizing personality like Steve to deal with the pitchers.
Q: Some people probably will feel like Randy is being scapegoated here or the blame runs higher. Do either of you guys feel like the blame should be shared at higher levels.
RIZZO: There is no doubt about it.
ACTA: Well, we win as a team and we lose as a team, and now with the coaching staff we have we're just going to work as hard as we can to do what we did here in 2007. We had an awful record through mid-May, and then we ended up playing .500 the rest of the way, so that's the way we have to look at it. The guys are there, we're going to try to do the same thing, and we're not going to stop working. That's the way we have to look at it. Is it going to change drastically from today to tomorrow? Maybe not. But it's been done before two years ago, and we're going to work as hard as possible to do it again.
Q: Mike, philosophically between Steve and Randy are there any differences that you're pinning your hopes on here?
RIZZO: Well, I think there are differences in the two ways of doing their job. Randy, as we all know, is a diligent film-worker and a mechanics-oriented pitching coach. Steve is more of a gut-feel [guy], more of a mental aspect kind of the game, and he's a much more old school pitching coach than I think Randy was. He was kind of the modern guy who worked diligently with films, how to attack hitters and that type of thing. And Steve I would describe as more not only of a mechanics type pitcher, because he's a very successful one in his own right, but a guy who really delves into the mental aspect of pitching as well.
Q: The fact he worked with many of these guys in the minors and in spring training, does that work in his favor?
RIZZO: Well, it certainly was a factor in choosing Steve, his familiarity with the staff and a lot of guys going through Syracuse and working with him over a couple years in spring training. He knows when they're going well, what deliveries work, what pitches work and that type of thing. When they get out of sync a little bit, I think he has the ability to get them back on track, so I think a lot of that comes into play.
Q: Have you decided what happens with Syracuse?
RIZZO: Right now our pitching coordinator Spin Williams is in Syracuse tonight until all the Dominos fall in the minor league system. We'll announce those in another day or so.
Q: Mike, was there a particular moment when you decided this was the right time?
RIZZO: Well, like I said before I think a change had to be made. This was the right time to do it, to salvage a big portion of the season we have left. We're only one-third through this thing, and I thought waiting wasn't going to help. If this was to be done, I thought a third through the season was a good test, and I thought a change was needed.
Q: With McCatty, Manny -- he's an old-school guy, you're a new-school guy. Will your style of managing pitchers change?
ACTA: The pitching coach doesn't change the way I manage. I consider myself a combination of the old school and the new school type of thing, and what he sort of brings over here is just a different view. I mean, Randy works as hard as anybody I've ever been around, but there is a different way to do things, and these guys, they've been under McCatty before, and he's been with us in spring training for the last three years, and he's going to try to get the best out of them with his own way. We sat together and we spoke about the way things are going to go, but the pitching coach really doesn't change the way I do things. He's here to take care of the pitching staff, to make sure I know which guys are available to pitch... but when it comes down to who's going in and out of the game, it doesn't matter who is the pitching coach.
June 2, 2009; 5:27 PM ET
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