Mike Maddux and Dusty Baker had talked about working with each other back in 2013 and now two years later they are getting that chance. Maddux is the Nationals' new pitching coach and he certainly could have done worse in terms of the staff he is inheriting.
Yes, Jordan Zimmermann has moved on to sign a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers. But remaining in the clubhouse is former Cy Young-winner Max Scherzer, and former All-Stars Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. There is also the young, but promising Joe Ross and Tanner Roark, who is one year removed from posting a 2.85 ERA in 31 starts. Then, there's Lucas Giolito, who is one of the best prospects in all of baseball.
The cupboard isn't bare, that's for sure. And Maddux likes what he sees.
"I like the inventory. What an inventory of arms over here," Maddux said. "I look at a rotation that features Max Scherzer up top, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross, Tanner Roark; everybody's got their own little shtick going on there. One guy's pitching with two colored eyes, another guy is with his ears out there, you've got the one lefty in there and then you've got the younger brother of another guy out there and then you got Tanner that's come out of nowhere a couple years ago, wins 15 ballgames and then goes and sits on his thumb last year out in the bullpen. It's a very interesting mix of what we have."
It's clear Maddux has followed the Nationals at least somewhat from afar. But now comes the challenge of really getting familiar with the pitchers and learning their strengths and weaknesses. Maddux explained that process.
"That's what I've got to do. I've got to understand them, see where they're coming from because, at the end of the day, my job is to get the best out of them and help them get the best out of themselves, so how do you do that? First off, you've got to know them and that's what I've got to do is sit down and get to know the guys and let them know that this is a partnership, that we're here to help one another. I'm not out there to bark orders, you do this and you do that," he said.
Maddux plans to wait until the New Year to really start communicating with the Nationals' pitching staff, as he is a firm believer in taking the offseason to rest and reset. Once January comes and spring training, Maddux will start instilling his pitching philosophy.
"Command the fastball, change speeds. Bottom line, that's what you've got to do and if you can't command the fastball, you better have some good stuff," Maddux said. "Good stuff will win out for a while, but we've got to command our stuff and change speeds. My challenge to everybody is to be better then you are. Why not overachieve? You've been given all this talent and everybody else has talent, what separates us from the next guy? That's got to be your mental approach.
"That's what I'm going to work on with everybody is their mental approach, how do I overachieve? That's what I want to do. The biggest compliment you can give any player is that he was an overachiever. That's the biggest compliment anybody can get and that's what I want our guys to strive to do is when it's all said and done, they can look back and say, you know what? I overachieved."