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Saturday, February 22, 2014
Will Tim Wallach's move affect strategy?

By Mark Saxon

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Dodgers put down 71 successful sacrifice bunts last season, more than any team in the National League other than the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.

That might sound a bit odd considering the Dodgers’ manager, Don Mattingly, played his entire career in the American League, where bunting is a relative afterthought. Once Mattingly established himself as a star hitter by batting .343 in 1984, he had just three sacrifice bunts the remainder of his career.

Will the Dodgers’ bunt-heavy approach change now that Tim Wallach is the bench coach? The Dodgers’ front office clearly thought some change in the dugout decision-making chain was needed because it declined to renew the contract of Mattingly’s bench coach, Trey Hillman, and decided to move Wallach from the third-base coach’s box to the dugout. That was the only change in the coaching staff.

It’s a bit early to predict whether it will have an appreciable impact on in-game strategy. Both Mattingly and Wallach are downplaying the magnitude of the change so far.

If there is a perception that the move was foisted upon Mattingly and that there will be tension in the dugout, that can probably be put to rest now. The two men played golf together Friday afternoon.

“Wally and I get along, a lot like Trey and I,” Mattingly said. “Trey and I just knew each other long, so it’ll be comfortable either way.”

On the Dodgers, the bench coach essentially serves as a second manager. Both Mattingly and Wallach will cull the detailed scouting reports they get before every series into a single game sheet they can hold in the dugout each game. Mattingly’s game sheet will have different information than Wallach’s, so in that sense there could be a different feel to in-game moves this year.

“He’s got a lot of stuff he’s got to pay attention to, so I just have to be there for him to let him know ahead of time,” Wallach. “I’m a forward thinker, so my job is to help him be prepared as well as I can.”

The move also could help Wallach take the next step in his career. A former Triple-A manager, he has interviewed for multiple managerial openings in recent seasons.