ST. LOUIS – The Cardinals have tabbed assistant hitting coach John Mabry as the replacement for hitting coach Mark McGwire, who left to take the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The club has also promoted Triple-A Memphis pitching coach Blaise Ilsley to the bullpen coach position with the big league team. Ilsley, 48, spent five seasons with Memphis and replaces former bullpen coach Dyar Miller.
Mabry learned under McGwire during his first season as a professional coach in 2012, spending numerous hours with hitters in the batting cage both before and during games. Now he takes charge of an offense that was the best in the league under McGwire from 2010-2012.
“That’s really exciting for us,” said first baseman Allen Craig. “This was the first year that a lot of us spent time with him on a daily basis and we all got to really understand how much he knows about the game and his approach. I think it will be a really good fit because we all know him well and we work with him well.”
Mabry hit .263 during a 14-year big league career, eight of the seasons during three different stints with the Cardinals. He hit .281 with 53 home runs and 272 RBI in 748 games with the Cardinals from 1994-98, 2001 and 2004-05.
The left-handed hitting Mabry didn’t wear batting gloves during his playing career, causing some to compare current Cardinals utility man Matt Carpenter to him. Mabry hit for a rare natural cycle during a 1996 game against the Colorado Rockies.
A FOX Sports Midwest studio analyst in 2011, Mabry moved back into uniform in 2012 when given the job as assistant hitting coach by friend and former teammate Mike Matheny. He wasn’t allowed in the dugout during games per MLB rules so he instead set up shop in both the video room and batting cage to work with hitters between at-bats.
“I think it will be great,” said infielder Dan Descalso. “It will be a very seamless transition. He and Big Mac talked a lot about the same stuff and for me, I worked a lot in the cage throughout the year with Mabry and just talking about hitting, he was a guy that I talked to a lot. Being able to pick his brain was a big help for me too.”
Mabry preached a lot of the same thoughts and ideas as McGwire, making him the obvious choice to replace him. McGwire left for the Dodgers for family reasons, taking advantage of an opportunity to live year round in his Orange County, Ca., home with his wife and five children.
Ilsley’s promotion to bullpen coach makes plenty of sense as well. He directly worked with several of the Cardinals young pitchers, including Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and others and Memphis led the PCL in ERA in three of his five seasons as pitching coach.
The Cardinals also announced Monday that they’ve extended offers to pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, bench coach Mike Aldrete, third base coach Jose Oquendo and first base coach Chris Maloney to return in 2013.
The Cardinals have yet to announce a replacement for Mabry as the assistant hitting coach. An intriguing possible candidate is former Cardinals outfielder Andy Van Slyke, who previously coached with the Detroit Tigers but is currently living in St. Louis.