WASHINGTON -- One week after their 2020 season ended, the Nationals began making changes for ‘21. The contract of pitching coach Paul Menhart will not be not renewed for next year, a source told MLB.com. The club has not confirmed the news, which was first reported by MASN.com.
Menhart has been a member of the Nationals organization since 2005. He was promoted to Major League pitching coach on May 1, 2019, when he replaced Derek Lilliquist.
Over the past 15 years, Menhart was the pitching coach for Class A Savannah (2006), Class A Hagerstown (‘07-08), Class A Advanced Potomac (‘09-11), Double-A Harrisburg (‘12-13) and Triple-A Syracuse (‘14). He was named Minor League pitching coordinator in ‘15, a role he held until last season.
Pitching was a driving force in the Nationals’ 2019 World Series title run. During the playoffs, they posted a 3.47 ERA, and the bullpen recorded six saves in seven opportunities. Among the standout performances, Stephen Strasburg became the first player to go 5-0 in a single postseason and won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
This year, though, the Nats ranked 26th in the Majors with a 5.09 ERA. The staff was hampered early on when Strasburg pitched just five innings before being shut down for season-ending surgery to alleviate carpal tunnel neuritis in his right hand. Pitchers often struggled to work late in games, the rotation had a different look as Erick Fedde and Austin Voth became regular starters for the first time in their careers and Max Scherzer (5-4) was the only starter to record a winning record. In the bullpen, Washington converted just 12 of 22 save opportunities.
There were silver linings within a taxed bullpen. Tanner Rainey emerged as what manager Dave Martinez called “potentially our future closer” after posting a 0.738 WHIP and rate of 14.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Kyle Finnegan, who did not make his Major League debut until this season at age 28, established himself as a reliable option with a 2.92 ERA. Kyle McGowin also made a case to earn a spot on the Major League roster in less than a month after making his first appearance of the season on Sept. 5.
After finishing this season 26-34, the Nationals planned to quickly begin working toward improving next year.
“We’re a winning organization,” general manager Mike Rizzo said last week following Martinez’s contract extension. “We’ve got a bunch of winners over here, and our goal is to win again next year in 2021. That’s our primary focus. And with the leadership in place now, we can move on to roster construction and preparation for the 2021 season.”