San Diego’s handling of Triple-A skipper Murphy highly unusual

Are the Padres considering firing Bud Black and replacing him with Pat Murphy (right)?

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Murphy is the Padres’ Triple-A manager. The Brewers want to hire him as a major-league coach. And the Padres have balked at letting him go.

A simple case of a team valuing an employee? Perhaps. But some in the industry view the Padres’ actions as highly unusual — and perhaps a sign that the Pads want Murphy to replace manager Bud Black or, at the very least, join the team’s coaching staff.

The Padres’ 20-20 record is fueling industry-wide speculation that Black could be in trouble. Ownership expects to win after opening the season with a club-record $109 million payroll. General manager A.J. Preller is in his first full season, and like ownership, inherited Black.

One Padres official, however, said that the team’s desire to keep Murphy is not a reflection on Black’s status. Rather, the Padres consider Murphy an “impact guy,” even though he is only at Triple-A, the official said.

A rival executive expressed skepticism with those claims.

“(Murphy) must have been made promises — big ones,” the executive said.

Clubs normally allow employees to depart for promotions with other teams. The Brewers never requested official permission to hire Murphy, but GM Doug Melvin expressed his interest in Murphy to Preller and the conversations did not progress, sources said.

New Brewers manager Craig Counsell, without specifically mentioning his interest in Murphy, told reporters Tuesday that he would not be making any imminent additions to his staff. Counsell played for Murphy at Notre Dame, and their relationship dates back more than a quarter-century.

But the Padres, according to one source, believe that losing their Triple-A manager in the middle of the season would be “chaotic,” and that if Murphy wants to join the Brewers, he can simply wait until the minor-league season ends in early September.

HIGH FASHION WITH A PURPOSE

In the Padres’ view, the situation is different than when they hired Preller from the Rangers last August. Preller was the Rangers’ assistant GM at the time, and the amateur draft and non-waiver deadline had passed, beginning a relatively quiet period.

Others, however, say that while the loss of Murphy would be disruptive for the Padres, teams routinely adjust to various staffing changes during the season – promotions, firings, departures for family reasons. The Indians recently allowed the Red Sox to hire their Triple A pitching coach, Carl Willis, for the same position in the majors.

Murphy coached at Notre Dame from 1988 to ’94 and Arizona State from 1995 to ’09 before joining the Padres as a special assistant in ’10. He played minor-league ball with the Giants and Padres, but has yet to work in the majors in any capacity.

The easiest way for the Padres to justify keeping Murphy from the Brewers is by making him either a major-league coach or manager. Former ASU players such as Dustin Pedroia and Andre Ethier rave about him.

What the Padres plan for him, if anything, remains to be seen.