Braves' Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone is close to accepting an offer from the Baltimore Orioles, and his best friend, Orioles' Manager Sam Perlozzo, to become the team's pitching coach.
Mazzone's exit will mean John Schuerholz will have to do something he has never done before in his fifteen years as the Braves' General Manager. He will have to choose a new pitching coach.
About the only thing else Schuerholz has not had to do is select a manager. So this might be one of the most important decisions he makes in his long and historic tenure as the Braves' GM.
One person he could turn to is Guy Hansen, recently fired as pitching coach of the Kansas City Royals. Schuerholz hired Hansen as a scout many years ago, and he has tremendous faith in Hansen's ability. Hansen was with the Braves for seven seasons before going to Kansas City last year. He was in charge of "finishing off" the pitching prospects as the coach in Richmond.
Bruce Dal Canton should get serious consideration. Mazzone actually replaced Dal Canton in the summer of 1990 when Bobby Cox took over as the Braves' Manager. Dal Canton had held the job for three seasons. He had also been the pitching coach of the White Sox in the late 70s.
Dal Canton is loved by the Braves' young pitchers, who worked with him in Myrtle Beach. He is 63 years old, so he might be the perfect man to work with Bobby Cox for a few more years until Cox retires. Dal Canton is probably the most respected coach in the Braves' farm system.
Bill Fischer has been the Braves' minor league pitching coordinator for the last two years. He has experience as the Red Sox and Devil Rays' major league pitching coach. Roger Clemens gives Fischer credit for helping his career in the mid-80s.
There are two more internal candidates that have not had big league experience, but both have had impacts on the careers of the Braves' young twirlers. Kent Willis was the Braves' AA pitching coach in 2005, after several years in Rome (and Macon before that). As the pitching coach at the Low-A level, Willis was in charge with really teaching the young prospects about pitching. He had an excellent track record of working with many of the Braves' top pitchers in Atlanta and in the system.
And Mike Alvarez will probably be a candidate as well. Alvarez has been in the system since 1998, serving as Richmond's pitching coach last season. Alvarez also has ties to Kansas City, serving as a coach in the Royals' system for many years before coming to the Braves.
The Braves may look outside the organization, with former Yankees' pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and Rangers' bullpen coach Mark Connor already rumored, but there are several internal candidates that deserve serious consideration.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.
Braves have candidates to replace Mazzone
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