Rick and Nick, A Hit Already

New hitting coach a hit already

Rick Eckstein, the Nats new hitting coach, got right to work as the team opened Spring Training in Viera, Fla.

Eckstein takes over for the "Pinch Hit King" Lenny Harris, whose reign of error resulted in a whole bunch of outs, oodles of shutouts, and lots of stagnation from the team's hitters.

Lenny pushed a "see ball, hit ball" approach, which served him well in his pinch-hitting role, but that does not really work on a team-wide level.  Not all strikes are good strikes, and far too many pitchers got the overly aggressive Nats out with slop.

Few Nats seemed to have a plan at the plate.  Only Elijah Dukes, it seemed, was willing to wait for his pitch, instead of whatever the pitcher lobbed up there.

Eckstein -- who is the brother of the scrappiest shortstop who ever did scrap, David -- seems to get it.  He understands that a one-size approach to hitting isn't going to work.

"The goal for everyone is 4. For one guy, that might mean 2+2. For another guy, that might mean 3+1. For another, it might be 5-1. But as long as everyone gets to the same spot in the end, it doesn't matter how they got there."

He got right to work in a strange place, working with Nick Johnson on his swing.

While it seems odd that they'd focus on a player whose on-base percentage and line-drive swing make him pretty complete, the Walking Stick seemed pleased with the results.

He told the Times, "I know it's early, but it just seems freer.  There's a couple of things I need to do, and when I do them, I seem to put a good swing on the ball. ... I just needed to switch the way that I've been thinking the last 27 years."

If Nick thinks it's working, that can't be bad.

Maybe there's a little glimmer of hope for next year after all.

Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment until opposing hitters found a hole in his swing.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us