It’s never easy for a new manager to inherit a big part of his coaching staff, but the Red Sox’ Bobby Valentine put a good spin on it yesterday afternoon when he officially introduced his staff, and shared a conference call with new pitching coach Bob McClure.
Valentine inherits bullpen coach Gary Tuck, hitting coach Dave Magadan, and bench coach Tim Bogar, who was the Sox’ third base coach last season under Terry Francona. Valentine added Sox organizational coach Alex Ochoa as first base coach and McClure, who had been hired prior to Valentine’s arrival as a scout and instructor.
The true Valentine hire is former Dodgers teammate Jerry Royster, who will coach third base. Valentine acknowledged he has a comfort level with Royster, that they were “taught baseball by the same people,’’ and liked his vast experience, including being the first foreign manager in Korea.
Asked how difficult it is to inherit coaches as opposed to hiring ones you know, Valentine said, “I think it’s equally hard. When you’re naming a staff, I really think the staff is a group of people, like a lineup is a group of people, that has to learn to work together and have to complement each other. I think it was really important to try to blend the other three selected coaches with the existing ones so that all of the disciplines were covered so we know that the players will be taught specific skills by very talented people, but also you get a mix of personalities that won’t conflict but will stimulate each other and hopefully stimulate the team. I think we did that and I’m excited about the group that was put together. I’m really excited about Bob heading up the pitching staff.’’
McClure, who spent six seasons as the Royals’ pitching coach before being let go at the end of the year because manager Ned Yost felt the staff wasn’t throwing enough strikes, will inherit a potential hornet’s nest trying to oversee a starting staff that got itself in trouble last year because of its clubhouse activities.
Valentine interviewed a few candidates - Brad Arnsberg and Neil Allen were two - but spoke to “people in Colorado where Bob worked, and in Kansas City who I trust and I believe in their baseball acumen, and they gave him very high grades in all the skill sets that I was looking for. The process has taken awhile mainly because I’ve been in the game for a long time and there are a lot of friends and acquaintances and even competitors that I owed the respect to them when they would recommend someone to try to reach out to whoever it was that was recommended to me or even anybody that I had on my list.
“So we did a real extensive search and I felt, as I told Bob right from the first interview, that he was right out in front of everyone else. And after all the other interviews came in he remained at the top.’’
Valentine said he found that McClure was “as Robin Yount would say, had a real true grit to him. He can be very sociable and jovial but he also can be stern when he needs to be, and I think that’s a good prerequisite for this job.’’
McClure, who helped develop Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria with the Royals, said, “I really hadn’t thought much of it, to tell you the truth. I had discussed with Allard Baird and Ben Cherington the job that I was offered and was basically jumping in that with both feet and learning how that process worked. So it wasn’t really on my mind at the time and it just kind of snowballed from there. Of course, the No. 1 thing that I liked to do the best is teach, and teaching pitching is always going to be my passion, as it was with the people that taught me.’’
McClure, who pitched parts of 19 major league seasons, expects differences between the Sox veteran pitchers and those he had in Kansas City.
“No. 1 is you’re approaching most of the pitchers on their aptitude and getting to know them first, which will happen in spring training,’’ he said. “You learn a lot about aptitude because a guy can be a veteran but not have a lot of aptitude yet because there may be some suggestions or maybe some things he hasn’t talked about. So you can have a young guy, like I had Soria, and Joakim was like he pitched 10 years in the major leagues. And then you have a guy like Aaron Crow who was real wide-eyed and not really sure yet. It was a whole different approach with the both of them.
“It’s just like with Greinke. When I had Zach, he was real young. You started out slow with him until he became sort of a veteran and the approach would change a little bit. You didn’t have to say as much. You just try to get out of their way and let them do their thing. My job basically in a nutshell is trying to get them to really be their own pitching coaches, in a way.’’
One of McClure’s biggest challenges will be to convert Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves into full-time starters.
McClure said “basically learning a third pitch’’ and being able to work through a lineup three times will make them better pitchers. “You get to see how it works out as far as endurance, as far as being able to repeat your delivery,’’ he said. “A lot of relievers are in the bullpen that have starters’ stuff because they don’t have the ability to repeat their delivery for 100, 130 pitches.’’
McClure said endurance could be a problem at first, but “it depends on body types, it depends on their arms. Everyone’s a little bit different. But it’s really going to be on the individual, their delivery, how easy it is for him to repeat, can you throw hard? So it depends, if he’s a max-effort guy, if he’s just starting to do this, if he’s never done it before, you’re going to have to watch it. If a guy has a pretty smooth delivery it makes it a little easier.’’
Valentine said he had a long chat with Bogar about the role of bench coach. “I wanted to understand where he was in his baseball career and what his vision for his future was,’’ Valentine said. “And when I mentioned the possibility of bringing in some other bench coaches and possibly giving a 40-something guy the opportunity to sit and work with me and even possibly someday further his career as a managerial candidate and a manager, Tim impressed upon me his desire to be just that guy.’’