Don Baylor, the 1979 American League MVP with the California Angels, has been hired as the Los Angeles Angels’ hitting coach, the team announced on Twitter this afternoon.
Baylor had served in the same capacity on Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson’s staff since 2011, Gibson’s first full season. Baylor found it a difficult decision, D-backs sources said, but felt it was a good landing spot.
“When the Angels called to ask for permission, I told them how much we valued Don as a coach, but we also understood that this was an organization where he had some of the best years and memories from his career,” D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said.
“I felt the right thing to do was to ask Groove (Baylor) if he had any interest in talking to them, with the understanding that he was still welcome back with us. I respect his decision to move closer to home and be a part of a franchise that is close to his heart.”
The D-backs, who had asked Baylor to return, are in the market for three coaches after pitching coach Charles Nagy and first base/baserunning coach Steve Sax were relieved of their duties last week.
The D-backs could have another coaching vacancy if third base coach Matt Williams gets a managerial position. He is believed to be a top candidate in Washington, and there also openings in Seattle, Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs. Former D-backs manager A.J. Hinch, an assistant general manager in San Diego, is said to be a candidate in Chicago also.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto played for Baylor when he managed the Colorado Rockies in 1997-98. The Angels recently fired hitting coach Jim Eppard and bench coach Rob Picciolo. Dipoto had 35 of his 49 career saves while pitching for Baylor.
Baylor had 338 home runs and 1,236 RBIs in a 19-year major league career, and was known for his toughness. He was hit by 267 pitches with a crowd-the-plate approach. He spent six seasons with the Angels from 1977-82, where he put up the best numbers of his career with 141 homers and 523 RBIs while leading the Angels to two division titles.
“Don enjoyed a distinguished playing career, highlighted by his tenure with the Angels during their first two division championships,” Dipoto said in a press release. “As a coach, he brings us tremendous expertise in the areas of hitting, communication and presence. It’s nice to have him home.”
Baylor was generally credited as having a lot to do with Justin Upton’s career year in 2011, when Upton finished fourth in the NL MVP voting and hit .289 with 39 doubles, 31 home runs, 88 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. All but the batting average are career highs.
“It has been very enjoyable working with Groove after competing against him all these years. He has always been there for me,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
The D-backs added assistant hitting coach Turner Ward to the staff last season, but it is not known if he will move up.
The D-backs were fifth in the NL with 685 runs in 2013 despite ranking 12th with 130 home runs, and general manager Kevin Towers said he will be in the market for another power bat in the corner outfield or at third base in the offseason.