Nats confirm Schu's return, add Jones to staff

GM Rizzo says club is close to finalizing rest of coaches

Nats confirm Schu's return, add Jones to staff

WASHINGTON -- Two weeks after hiring Dusty Baker as manager, the Nationals continue to piece together their coaching staff.

General manager Mike Rizzo confirmed Wednesday that Rick Schu will return as hitting coach, a decision reported Monday. Rizzo also revealed that former Major League outfielder Jacque Jones will join the team as assistant hitting coach, a position that is new for the Nats, but has been gaining popularity around the league in recent years.

"The hitting coach job is such a labor-intensive job," Rizzo said, following a news conference to discuss the team's new medical staff. "Really, the assistant hitting coach is the guy you rarely see, because he's in the tunnel from the second inning to the end of the game preparing players to hit in the game. So we felt it was a good time to hire a really good young prospective coach in Jacque Jones."

Rizzo said he liked Jones' energy and work ethic, and he described him as a favorite of Baker, who managed him with the Cubs in 2006. Jones spent 10 seasons in the Majors, last playing in '08, and hit .277/.326/.448 with 165 home runs. He then served as a hitting coach at three levels of the Padres' farm system from 2012 until resigning from his post at Triple-A El Paso in June '14.

Jones will work with Schu, who took over as hitting coach in July 2013. Washington finished third in the National League in runs in his first full season, then did so again this year despite numerous injuries to key players.

"We think that Rick's done an admirable job the last couple years," Rizzo said. "He's got a great rapport with some of our star players, and he was highly recommended by the players to keep him. I've always appreciated what he's done."

The other staff members already on board are pitching coach Mike Maddux, first-base coach Davey Lopes and Chris Speier, who will serve either as bench coach or third-base coach. Speier has filled both roles before under Baker, with the Cubs and Reds. Speier also will work with infielders and take over some of the responsibilities that previously fell to defensive coordinator and advance coach Mark Weidemaier, who was let go after the season, along with the rest of Matt Williams' staff.

The Nationals interviewed other coaching candidates at last week's General Managers Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., and they are close to finalizing the rest of the positions, Rizzo said.

The GM also addressed the acquisition of left-handed reliever Sean Burnett, one of two players the Nationals signed to a Minor League deal Monday, along with outfielder Reed Johnson. Burnett has battled arm injuries since leaving Washington after the 2012 season, had Tommy John surgery in June 2014 and didn't pitch this year. But the Nats had a scout visit the 33-year-old, who Rizzo said was "throwing the ball free and easy."

"We took a low-risk opportunity to see what we have in Sean Burnett," Rizzo said. "We know what the guy's going to give us on the mound 100 percent, and we'll see where he's at physically, because if he's anywhere near the Sean Burnett we had physically, we know what we have character-wise and mentally -- he's as good as it gets."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.