Friday, December 23, 2011
Bobby Valentine explains staff choices
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox and manager Bobby Valentine conducted an extensive search before naming the club's coaching staff for the 2012 season.
On Friday afternoon, Valentine made the official announcement that Bob McClure is the team's pitching coach, Jerry Royster the third-base coach and Alex Ochoa the first-base coach. Tim Bogar has been named bench coach, while hitting coach Dave Magadan and bullpen coach Gary Tuck also return for 2012.
McClure's pedigree as a pitching coach is similar to that of former Sox pitching coach John Farrell. McClure, 59, has the resume of a former player, a coach and also as a strong evaluator of talent.
"He has a true grit to him," Valentine said. "He can be very sociable and very jovial, but he can also be stern when he needs to be. I think that's a good prerequisite for this job."
Valentine spoke with many baseball personnel whom he trusts and asked for their opinion on McClure.
"They gave him very high grades and all the skill sets I'm looking for," Valentine said. "The process has taken a while, mainly because I've been in the game for a long time and there's a lot of friends and acquaintances, even competitors, that I owed the respect to them when they would recommend someone."
All along, however, the right guy for the job was already in the organization -- albeit for a brief time.
When general manager Ben Cherington announced promotions and additions to the organization last month, McClure was one of only two outsiders brought in. He already had a strong relationship with current Red Sox assistant general manager Allard Baird when the two worked together in Kansas City. And, it's possible the Red Sox wanted him in the organization in some capacity until a manager was finally named, keeping other organizations from hiring him.
During his introductory conference call on Friday afternoon, McClure admitted that he hadn't thought about the vacant job as the Sox's pitching coach when the organization first hired him as a special assignment scout/instructor.
He spent the last six seasons as the pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Prior to joining the Royals, he served as a minor league pitching coach in the Colorado Rockies system for seven seasons. He began his coaching career with the Florida Marlins in 1994 as a coach on the major league staff and also served as a scout with the Marlins in 1996.
"The No. 1 thing I like to do is teach," he said. "Teaching pitching is always going to be my passion, as it was with the people who taught me."
Once Valentine interviewed McClure, the manager told him he was the leader in the clubhouse for the position.
"I was looking for someone with experience at the major league level, obviously, but also someone who understood both starting and relieving," Valentine said.
McClure, a left-handed pitcher, played 19 seasons in the big leagues and worked as both a reliever and a starter. He compiled a 68-57 record with 52 saves and a 3.81 ERA in 698 career games (73 starts).
That proves crucial given the fact that the Red Sox have a couple of pitchers who could fill both roles as a starter or reliever in 2012, including Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves.
"If they go into the spring training and we're looking at them as starters, it's only going to make them better pitchers by pitching them three to four to five innings," McClure said.
"If they wind up going back to the bullpen, in my past experience, I've seen guys actually end up better. They're able to work in spring training and get to work multiple innings on another pitch. There are a lot of benefits to doing it. You just have to see how it works out as far as endurance, and as far as being able to repeat your delivery. A lot of relievers are in the bullpen that have starter's stuff because they don't have the ability to repeat their delivery for 100 to 130 pitches."
McClure is not in a position, yet, to critique Boston's pitching staff from a season ago, but once he talks with all the pitchers he'll have a better understanding before spring training.
"My job, in a nutshell, is basically to really have them be their own pitching coach," explained McClure.
It's also possible the Red Sox were looking ahead, too, when they hired McClure.
During his tenure as the Royals' pitching coach, he worked with the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, who will be a free agent in 2013.
Bogar, 45, enters his fourth year with the Red Sox. He spent the past two seasons as Boston's third-base coach, and the 2009 season as the first-base coach. He also played for Valentine with the Mets in 1996.
Valentine, serving as an analyst for ESPN last season, commented during one of the Red Sox's broadcast that he felt Bogar had the baseball intelligence to manage in the big leagues at some point.
Valentine admitted that he spoke with Bogar numerous times about the composition of the coaching staff in Boston, and also wanted to know what his career goals were.
"I wanted to know where he was in his baseball career and what his vision for his future was," Valentine said. "When I mentioned the possibility of bringing in some other bench coaches, and possibly giving a 40-something guy the opportunity to sit with me, and work with me and even possibly someday further his career as a managerial candidate and a manger, Tim impressed upon me his desire to be just that guy.
"Not only was there a desire that was expressed, he convinced me he was ready, able and willing to do as good of a job as anyone else out there. So I was really confident after talking to Tim that the right thing for him, and for the organization, was to get him in the dugout and working by my side."
Royster, 59, has been involved in professional baseball for more than 40 years. He most recently managed the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization from 2008-10, becoming the league's first foreign manager.
"I wanted someone with a real experienced check beside his name," Valentine said, "and when I looked around at those who had at least 15 years of playing experience and major league coaching experience and major league managing experience, the list is relatively thin, but the group I was considering I also wanted enthusiasm, a bit of a comfort level."
Ochoa, 39, has been with the Red Sox organization since 2009 and most recently was the hitting coach for Single-A Salem. He served as a staff assistant for the Red Sox in 2009. In 2010, he served as a special assistant in the baseball operations department. Ochoa played eight years in the majors, including the 1996 and 1997 seasons for Valentine in New York.
Now that Valentine has his staff in place, and the roster is still taking shape, there's still plenty of work to be done before spring training.
"It's a work in progress," the new manager said.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.