PHILADELPHIA -- General manager Mike Rizzo told a radio station Wednesday that he has dismissed hitting coaches in the past, but he is not thinking of relieving Rick Eckstein of his duties as hitting coach -- yet.
But manager Davey Johnson reiterated that he supports Eckstein and said if the Nationals let Eckstein go, the team will have to dismiss Johnson as well. Johnson said he and Eckstein have the same hitting philosophy -- hit the ball where it is pitched.
"He is one of the most outstanding hitting instructors I've ever been around. He is conscientious, hard working," Johnson said. "If anything, he works too hard. But if you want to fire the hitting coach, you might as well fire me, because he has the same philosophy that I do."
The Nationals are near the bottom of almost every offensive category and, according to Ryan Zimmerman, Eckstein is taking it hard. But it's not Eckstein's fault that the team is not hitting.
"Rick doesn't hit. He gives us the best chance," Zimmerman said. "He is here every day doing what he is supposed to do. It's not his fault, Davey's fault or anyone's fault but the guys who go up there and hit. Rick obviously takes it harder, but we are the ones who get paid to hit, drive in runs. It's nobody's fault but ours."
Unlike last year, Nats may be Deadline players
PHILADELPHIA -- Last year at this time, manager Davey Johnson said the Nationals didn't need to make a move before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31. At the time, the Nationals had one of the best records in baseball, thanks to their timely hitting and stalwart pitching staff.
The Nationals didn't make a move before the Deadline, but they did acquire catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Athletics on Aug. 3.
This year, the Nationals may have to make some moves. Entering Wednesday's action, the team was tied for second place with a 34-36 record, seven games behind the Braves.
As one baseball source put it, the team may need to go out and get a veteran right-handed hitter for the bench. The Nationals started the season hoping that Tyler Moore could provide power off the bench, but he was recently sent down to Triple-A Syracuse to find his swing. There is a chance Moore could be back to help the Major League team. In eight games for Syracuse, Moore is 8-for-32 (.250) with two home runs and eight RBIs.
But the source said the biggest boost to the team would be getting outfielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos back in the lineup. Both players are on the disabled list because of knee and hamstring issues, respectively.
"Those were the biggest blows," the source said.
Before he got hurt, Harper was clearly the best player on the Nationals. He was leading the team in almost every offensive category. He is currently working on strengthening his left knee, which he hurt after crashing into the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium in May.
Ramos hasn't played a Major League game since mid-May, but he is performing baseball activities in Florida.
While no timetable has been set, the Nationals are hoping that Harper and Ramos will be back in a couple of weeks.
Another question is whether the Nationals need a fifth starter.Thus far, right-hander Dan Haren has been inconsistent, going 4-8 with a 5.72 ERA. But the source doesn't think the Nationals are looking for a starter.
The Nationals are paying Haren $13 million this year and they are going to give him every chance to get his act together.
• Roger Bernadina was scratched from Wednesday's lineup because he couldn't see out of his left eye. He is expected to see an eye doctor Thursday and get it checked out. Steve Lombardozzi replaced Bernadina in left field.
• Chad Tracy had muscle spasms in his back and couldn't take batting practice on Wednesday. He hurt the back while long tossing before the game. He spent most of Wednesday's game in the trainer's room. He started to feel better before he was announced as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the Nationals' 6-2 victory. Tracy's injury is not considered serious.
"Something got out of whack. Not sure," Tracy said. "But I was ready to hit [in the eighth inning]. A couple of days of treatment will be fine."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.