D-backs coaching staff a nice blend
PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks sought not only expertise but balance on their coaching staff, and they believe they have found it.
New manager Chip Hale called it a yin-yang thing when describing the relationship between returning hitting coach Turner Ward and new assistant Mark Grace, and general manager Dave Stewart said different voices are a valuable asset to the whole.
"All of these guys complement each other in different ways," Stewart said.
"But even more importantly, for our clubhouse and the way the team is made up, you have to have different personalities to … get the best out of them. Chip can be a little bit intense and into the game, then you have ‘Gracie’ who is a little bit more light-hearted and a prankster and a jokester, which is good in our clubhouse.
"You have different balances and different types of personalities, but more importantly, all of the guys will have a good rapport and get different things from the guys in the clubhouse."
The new staff looks a lot like the old one, and it also looks like family.
Andy Green will join the staff as the third base coach, and original D-back Glenn Sherlock will move to bench coach, the same role he had in 2003. Sherlock has been on the D-backs’ staff in some capacity since the 1998 expansion season.
Grace will become the assistant hitting coach under Ward after spending 2014 as the hitting coach at short-season Class-A Hillsboro, which won the Northwest League championship.
The rest of former manager Kirk Gibson’s staff will remain — first base/base running coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. Henry Blanco will become the bullpen catcher and also will help coach the catchers and pitchers.
Grace will be back in the majors for the first time since retiring after the 2003 season. He served as the D-backs’ television analyst from 2004-12.
"Mark worked hard down in the minor leagues with the younger guys and proved what a hitting coach he was," Hale said. "He has tons of charisma. He can help me on the bench at times. He is one of the best first basemen in baseball, so we can always lean on him in those situations too."
Grace, who hit 15 home runs and drove in 78 runs for the D-backs’ 2001 World Series championship team, began his coaching career in 2013 as the organization’s hitting coach in the Arizona League. He was removed as a broadcaster after pleading guilty to driving under the influence and serving four months in jail.
"We’ve given him a second shot here and he’s run with it," Hale said. "He’s worked his tail off in the minor leagues. It is not easy, especially for a guy who’s done things like he has in baseball. Now you are riding buses again (in the minors).
"He didn’t have to do that again, and he did. He wants this. I can tell from talking on the phone with him, he is as excited as anyone is. He’s ready to get this thing turned around. He wants the Diamondbacks to be successful, just like the rest of us. We are going to draw on him a lot this year."
Sherlock, who joined the organization as the catching coordinator in 1996, also has served on the D-backs’ staff as the bullpen and catching coach, the first base coach and third base coach.
"It balances me out, number one," said Hale, who worked with Sherlock on the D-backs’ staffs in 2006-09. "He has been in this division and this league forever. He knows everybody. He’s been handling the catching for a long time. When you are handling catching you are involved in the game plan."
Green, 37, in some ways is the next Hale, a former major league infielder whose resume includes great success as a minor league manager. Green won the rookie Pioneer League title with Missoula in 2012 and was the Southern League manager of the year in 2013, when Mobile won the league championship. The BayBears made the Southern League playoffs again in 2014. Green began his managing career in the rookie Arizona League in 2011.
"He’s really worked hard to be a good minor league manager," said Hale, who managed Green from rookie league Missoula to Triple-A Tucson. "I’m excited to help him take the next step as a coach."
McKay will return for a second season with the D-backs after serving 27 of his previous 31 years as a coach on La Russa’s staffs in Oakland and St. Louis. Ward has spent the previous two seasons as assistant hitting coach and hitting coach with the D-backs. He was the Southern League manager of the year at Mobile in 2011, the first of the BayBears’ two straight league championships.
Grace’s defensive responsibility will be the team’s first basemen while Green will handle the other infielders. McKay will coach the outfielders and Blanco the catchers. Mike Fetters, who served as a quality control coach, will remain, as will bullpen coach Mark Reed, Stewart said.