Ruhle Was Never Mets' First Choice

Mets manager Art Howe said on the last day of the season that starting pitching was one of the few aspects of the game he thought the team handled well. Less than 48 hours later, pitching coach Vern Ruhle was dumped off the major league staff.

Ruhle, 52, was reassigned within the organization, a nice way of saying he was fired. Interim general manager Jim Duquette said he and Howe agreed on the decision.

"We're not going to get into the specific reasons for the change," Duquette said in a statement released by the team. "Suffice it to say we felt it was best for the organization."

The Mets were intent on hiring Atlanta pitching guru Leo Mazzone last winter, but he re-signed with the Braves. Dodgers executive Dave Wallace considered the job but elected to stay in Los Angeles, then wound up with the Red Sox this season when Boston's pitching coach, Tony Cloninger, took a medical leave of absence.

Ruhle, a former coach with the Phillies and Astros, was the backup choice and performed fairly well. The Mets had a 4.48 staff ERA, 10th in the National League. Starters Steve Trachsel, Al Leiter and Jae Weong Seo all had strong years. But free agent Tom Glavine (9-14, 4.52) did not.

Privately, the Mets voiced concerns with Ruhle's communications skills, particularly with the younger pitchers.

As for a possible return to the Mets, you can scratch Dave Wallace's name off the list of potential pitching coaches for the Mets. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said on Oct. 5 that Wallace has a contract through the end of 2004 and will be retained in either an on-field or front-office capacity next season.

"Dave is a great pitching coach, and we don't want him going anywhere," Epstein said.

Wallace was with the Mets from 1998-200, first as an advisor to general manager Steve Phillips then as pitching coach. Current Mets GM Jim Duquette thinks highly of Wallace, and there were reports the Mets would seek to bring him back.

Wallace, a Connecticut native, resides in Norfolk, Mass. He joined the Red Sox as interim pitching coach in June when Tony Cloninger took a medical leave of absence after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.

"I really have no comment regarding anything with the Mets," Wallace said. "I told Theo I'd stay out of it."

Current Mets bullpen coach Rick Waits and Class A St. Lucie coach Dan Warthen are the leading in-house candidates. A darkhorse pitching coach candidate is former Mets' pitcher, Bobby Ojeda. But the Mets are expected to make a run at Oakland pitching coach Rick Peterson, a New Jersey native.

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