Nationals bullpen roles more clearly defined under Paul Menhart

Chris Lingebach
May 14, 2019 - 2:29 pm

New Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart is already establishing better communication with his pitching staff, closer Sean Doolittle says.

Menhart took over for Derek Lilliquist, who was fired on May 2 just before the start of a pivotal 10-game road swing. Unfortunately the Nats still went 3-7 on the trip.

During his weekly 106.7 The Fan appearance Tuesday – presented by Lindsay Volvo Cars of Alexandria – Doolittle was asked if Washington's bullpen has defined roles 40 games into the season.

"It's becoming more defined," Doolittle told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. "And that was one of the first things that Paul Menhart, the new pitching coach, that was one of the first things that he did, is he got the guys together in one of our first bullpen meetings, and said, 'Hey, look. We have roles for you guys, as we see them right now.'

"He got together with the guys. He said, 'Please come find me. Let's meet and let's talk.' They're always subject to change, even from day to day, from series to series, but he was able to give guys an idea of how they see them being used right now so that guys know how to prepare, guys know what to expect. Even just that communication goes a really long way."

"And in some cases, their role, it still might be really loosely defined," Doolittle said. "Guys like (Wander) Suero and Justin Miller, guys that can kind of float around and fill a number of different roles, from low leverage to high leverage, multiple innings, matching up.

"Even sometimes it's helpful if a pitching coach says like, 'Hey, we're not exactly sure. Just be ready from the sixth inning on.' That is starting to fall into place and the communication, like I said, from the pitching coach like that goes a long way."

Doolittle was reluctant to compare and contrast Menhart and Lilliquist, but described the latter as having more of an "old school" approach. Menhart has been more hands on.

"When comparing and contrasting, I don't want to – he's very different than Lilly was, but I don't want this to be an indictment of Lilly," Doolittle said. "He's a lot more old school. Old school pitching coaches tend to maybe be a little bit more hands off and kind of let the players come to him if they have a question, or take the lead on some things.

"And Pauly, he's a lot more proactive. He knows a lot of these guys, too, from the guys that have come up through our system, so he has kind of a longstanding rapport with them. He's coached several of these guys at different minor league stops."

"That's the biggest thing I've seen so far, is that he's willing to just be more proactive with the day-to-day things that he's seen," he said. "Maybe he saw something in the outing last night. He's really into analytics, so he might pick up on something and bring it to your attention before you go out to play catch the next day. It's been good. He's been really fun to work with so far."

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