WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP)— The slumping Washington Nationals have fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein, who paid the price for the team’s offensive woes this season.

Washington entered play Monday stuck in a three-game losing streak and a disappointing 48-50 record. The team is tied for 28th overall in runs and ranks 27th in batting average.

Eckstein was hired as the Nationals’ batting coach before the 2009 season. He was the longest-tenured hitting coach in the NL East.

He was replaced Monday by Rick Schu, who for the past four years has been the team’s minor league hitting coordinator.

Schu has 16 years of coaching experience. While with Washington, he has worked with several current Nationals players, including Bryce Harper. Before coming to the Nationals, Schu spent parts of four seasons as Arizona’s hitting coach.

Previously, both manager Davey Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo stood by Eckstein despite the team’s struggles at the plate.

Johnson told the Sports Junkies on June 5 that him and Eckstein share similar coaching philosophies and that if one is shown the door, then the other should follow.

“Well, first of all guys, we’ve got the best hitting coach in baseball,” Johnson said in reference to Eckstein. “And I’ll tell you what, he teaches exactly what I teach. So if you fire him, you might as well fire me.”

Rizzo, speaking to 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny on June 19, said he wasn’t entertaining the thought of letting Eckstein go.

“I’ve fired pitching coaches and managers and directors in my career. It’s never an easy thing to do but it’s something that has to happen when it has to happen.

“If it comes to the point where I think that Rick’s not doing his job and needs to be replaced, I would certainly consider it. I’m not in that place. Rick prepares extremely well, he works extremely hard and has helped a lot of our hitters, and I’m certainly not at the point of thinking about that yet.”

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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