Search for manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks include Royals’ bench coach Don Wakamatsu and former major-leaguer Alex Cora
In recent days, search for the next manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks presenetd some clarity.
First, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports said that Royals’ becnh coach Dan Wakamatsu and former utility infielder Cora would communicate with Arizona team officials.
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On Sunday, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic wrote the club “might already have sat down with a majority of the candidates including the perceived frontrunner, Boston Red Sox’ bench coach Torey Lovullo.”
Piecoro’s sources confirmed both men are under consideration and added a new name to the mix: St. Louis Cardinals bench coach David Bell. His brother is Diamondbacks’ farm director Mike Bell.
Wakamatsu served as the Seattle Mariners’ skipper from 2009-10. The 53-year-old was the Toronto Blue Jays’ bench coach in 2011 and 2012, before the New York Yankees hired him as an area scout in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Wakamatsu is the only candidate mentioned that has experience as a major league manager.
For his part, Cora played 14 seasons in the big-leagues from 1998-2011. He does not have managerial experience at the major- or minor-league level. Yet, his reputation as a student of the game, a great teammate, and a leader in the clubhouse jives with the qualities of a field manager. Cora played for the Cleveland Indians and Red Sox when Hazen was in each organization’s front office.
During Cora’s time with the Washington Nationals, General Manager Mike Rizzo talked about his qualities.
“He (Cora) had players out on the half field [a full infield with a miniature outfield] every morning in Spring Training before anyone else got there,” Rizzo said.” I didn’t know about it for weeks. He does things like that.”
“I think it comes natural to him to be a teacher,” Rizzo said speaking to MLB.com in 2009.
Bell spent the last three seasons, counting 2016, on Manager Mike Matheny’s staff, the last two as his right-hand man. Bell managed the Cardinals Double-A affiliate from 2008-10 and their Triple-A team from 2011-2012.
Bench coach’s often become field managers for a reason. They often serve as “assistant manager” helping the manager perform and sometimes influence, in-game decisions.
Reno Aces manager Phil Nevin remains the only assumed internal candidate.
Bud Black Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Most assume Lovullo will get the job, but Hazen cleared up any talk that his relationship with the former major-league infielder impacts the hiring process.
“People can read or interpret how they want to,” Hazen said. “I don’t think any of that is fair, but it hasn’t been something that has been a major factor.
“It’s our responsibility to hire the best manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s the only way I’m looking at it.” Hazen continued.
Hazen wants a manager that embraces analytics. Wakamatsu and Cora fit that criteria. Nevin knows the players well, and Cora would be an out of the box hire, but would likely garner immediate respect in the dugout.
Do not be surprised the Diamondbacks interview Bud Black. Black, a former pitcher, managed the San Diego Padres and knows the division.
Plus, if the main priority is to improve the team’s pitching, hiring Black with a track record of developing solid pitchers makes sense.
Early rumors considered former Colorado Rockies skipper Walt Weiss the favorite. He could still be part of the equation.
Mike Hazen. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Shuffle Continues
Meanwhile, in light of recent front office shuffling, former veterinarian, Dr. Ed Lewis stepped down from his position as director of the Diamondbacks analytics department.
Given his close association with Tony La Russa, still with the title of the Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer, the choice of Lewis followed the notion of who you know and not what you know. When La Russa was stripped of his decision-making powers earlier this month, his close association with Lewis was a likely victim of Hazen’s restructure.
Speaking to the Arizona Republic, Hazen echoed a similar point.
“I feel like there are just going to be some avenues that we want to explore on that side of the game that maybe bringing in people who are a little more specialized in certain things and maybe rebuild the department in a different way.”
What remains up in the air is how exactly Hazen plans on curating analytics.
Hazen confirmed a report by Robert Murray of Today’s Knuckleball that Diamondbacks’ director of pro scouting Mike Russell departed for his old organization, the Detroit Tigers.
Russell conducted pro scouting operations the past two seasons, but he spent 2002-2014 with Detroit.