Inside Pitch: Coaching Carrousel Continues

For the third straight season, the Oakland A's will see a significant shake-up amongst their coaching staff. Bench coach Chris Speier is already gone, pitching coach Curt Young is on the hot seat and third base coach Ron Washington will be a front-runner for managerial positions.<br><br> Find out why Speier was let go and who the A's might hire in his place in this edition of <i>Inside Pitch</i>...

The A's announced last week bench coach Chris Speier will not be re-hired next year, which was not a surprise to many with intimate knowledge of the organization. Speier was sometimes credited for the pickoffs by A's pitchers this year (the A's had a record 28 pick-offs this season), but two mistakes late in the season didn't help his cause.

On the A's last road trip, Speier copied down the wrong batting lineup and gave it to the Rangers. The mistake wasn't caught until less than 30 minutes before the game, and it could have resulted in the A's batting out of order. Even worse, Speier provided the wrong pitcher-hitting matchup information to manager Ken Macha in Anaheim. On Sept. 25, Macha used Ricardo Rincon against Garret Anderson even though Anderson was 5-for-11 lifetime against Rincon. Anderson doubled home the winning run. Macha explained after the game he had no other options, noting that Anderson was 4-for-11 against Arthur Rhodes. In reality, Anderson was 7-for-34 (.206) against Rhodes. The information was relayed to Macha the next day. Shortly thereafter, Macha held an animated discussion with Speier. Whether Macha would have used Rhodes isn't certain, but he wanted all the information at his disposal to be accurate.

The A's will be looking for a bench coach for the third straight offseason. Macha was promoted from bench coach after the 2002 season, and Terry Francona was hired. Speier replaced Francona when Francona was hired as the Boston Red Sox manager.

The A's like to have experienced bench coaches, so look for the A's to target a former manager or bench coach in their search. Some names that have surfaced include recently fired managers Bob Melvin and Larry Bowa, as well as former Cubs and Rockies manager Don Baylor. The A's could also stay in-house with their bench coach search. Third base coach Ron Washington is a candidate for a manager's position. However, if he doesn't get a manager's post, the A's may look to promote him to bench coach in order to increase his stock as a future manager. Many of the A's infielders have credited Washington with their development as good fielders and he is very popular within the clubhouse. Another in-house candidate for the job could be Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco has done a tremendous job with the RiverCats, leading them to two straight PCL titles. He knows many of the young players on the A's through his 13 years of work within the Oakland organization. Art Howe is also on the job market, but it isn't expected that the A's will go after their former skipper.

The A's haven't announced for sure which other members of the coaching staff will return, but pitching coach Curt Young is expected to be retained. There was some speculation Young would be made a scapegoat for the pitching staff's late collapse and the struggles of Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. However, Manager Ken Macha has praised Young for his work with Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer as positives from Young's first year as pitching coach.

How did Macha assess his own work in 2004, a season that saw the A's miss the playoffs for the first time since 1999: "I can sleep. I know I did everything I can to get as much as I could out of these guys. The Twins were one game better than us and they play in a division where nobody else was .500, correct? We play in a tough division. It sure won't get any easier. I'm sure Texas will improve. Seattle has the resources to straighten their situation out in a hurry," said Macha.

Notebook

--RF Jermaine Dye became a free agent when, as expected, the A's did not exercise their half of the mutual option on his $14 million contract for next season. The A's still could negotiate a less expensive deal with Dye, but that appears unlikely.

--LHP Chris Hammond was cut loose by the A's when they declined the option on his $3 million contract for next year. Hammond was plagued by a sore shoulder for much of the season.

--RHP Tim Harikkala was claimed off waivers from the Colorado Rockies. Harikkala was 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA in 55 appearances. The A's are his sixth organization.

--RHP Kirk Saarloos was designated for assignment and passed through waivers. Saarloos had elbow surgery and could still return to the A's.


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