Maddux excited to work with Dusty, Nats talent

Maddux excited to work with Dusty, Nats talent

WASHINGTON -- A couple of seasons back, when Mike Maddux was the pitching coach for the Rangers, he spent about a half-hour before a game in Oakland talking to Dusty Baker in the dugout. The two had "a nice chat," Maddux said, covering mostly non-baseball matters, and Maddux mentioned that it would be cool if the two could work together at some point.

"And here we are," Maddux said on Saturday at the Nationals' Winterfest event. "I'm looking very forward to it."

Baker, after two seasons away from the dugout, was hired by the Nats to replace Matt Williams in early November. Maddux came aboard soon after.

For Maddux, it wasn't just about working with Baker. He also likes the talent he sees in Washington.

Even with Jordan Zimmermann now in Detroit and Doug Fister also likely to depart as a free agent, the Nats can fill out their starting rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Tanner Roark, with top prospect Lucas Giolito and others waiting in the wings. Of course, there's also still a chance the club will add another arm to the mix this offseason.

"On paper, the inventory is outstanding, and that's something I'm really looking forward to," Maddux said.

A Major League pitcher for 15 seasons, Maddux had long stints as a pitching coach in both Milwaukee (2003-08) and Texas (2009-15). He also happens to be the brother of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

Baker lauded his new pitching coach for his "wealth of knowledge" and winning experience, and the Nats pitchers are excited to work with him.

"I've had some former teammates who have been with him before in Texas, and they've come back and said great things about him and how he prepares and the information he gives to you," Scherzer said. "So I'm excited to pick his mind as well. It's always good to have new faces and new ideas, because that's how you get better."

Maddux said that while he has not begun preparing for next season in earnest yet, the process of learning about a whole new group of pitchers will start in January and carry into Spring Training.

"First of all, you've got to know them, and that's what I've got to do -- sit down, get to know the guys, let them know this is a partnership and we're here to help one another," Maddux said. "I'm not out there to bark orders -- you do this and you do that. It's about what do we need to do together to make this thing work."

When it comes to philosophy, Maddux keeps it simple: Command the fastball and change speeds. The thing he stresses most is working on a mental approach that allows players to get the most out of their ability.

"The biggest compliment you can give any player is that he was an overachiever," Maddux said. "That's what I want our guys to strive to do, so when it's all said and done they can sit back and say, 'I overachieved.'"

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