With the departure of third base coach Matt Williams to be the next Washington Nationals’ manager, the Diamondbacks coaching staff is under-going a transformation.
After pitching coach Charles Nagy and first base coach Steve Sax were fired in October, and hitting coach Don Baylor resigned to take a similar position with the Angels, manager Kirk Gibson had just three remaining from his 2013 coaching staff.
Plus, rumors circulated that bench coach Alan Trammell might be replaced. Not that Trammell was considered on the outside but rather it was perceived Gibson might benefit from a different voice.
As quickly as Williams left for the nation’s capital, the Diamondbacks announced changes to the coaching staff.
First, Trammell returns as the bench coach and, during games, is usually found closest to Gibson. Assistant hitting coach Turner Ward was promoted to fill Baylor’s vacancy and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock, with the organization since day one, was tapped to replace Williams as the third base coach.
Perhaps the most curious change developed when general manager Kevin Towers and Gibson lured Dave McKay to be the first base coach.
Over the previous two seasons, Eric Young and Sax occupied that slot and each had the responsibility of helping the running game. Both failed in this duty and now McKay was brought into the desert.
The move toward McKay could be seen as perhaps a mentor to Matt Davidson, whom the Diamondbacks brought up last season and is regarded as the third baseman of the future.
While no one in the organization doubts Davidson’s bat and his potential at the plate, it’s his fielding which draws concern. McKay is known as an instructor and is in position to work, nearly one-on-one, with Davidson.
A native of British Columbia, McKay was the starting third baseman for Toronto in the Jays’ first game on April 7, 1977 and was the second baseman the following season.
His experience in working with infielders is well known and has been a first base coach since 1988 with the Cardinals, A’s and Cubs.
Still outstanding is Towers’ search for a pitching coach. The hunt is expected to accelerate in the coming days and Towers would like the staff complete as soon as possible.
In the meantime, the organization lost Williams, a icon in the annuals of the franchise. As Gibson’s third base coach over the past three season, Williams now renews a close association he had with Nats’ general manager Mike Rizzo, who was the Diamondbacks’ director of scouting from 2000 to 2006.
“(Matt) is the right man at the right time,” Rizzo said a news conference Friday to introduce Williams as Washington’s next manager. “I’ve known Matt a long time and he leads by example and performance on the field.”
For his part, Williams said he thought about managing for some time and had his first opportunity in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. He took the Salt River Rafters to the championship game before protesting and eventually losing the title contest.
Williams discounted the notion he lacks experience at the managerial level. Since the Nationals’ job is his first guiding a major league team, Williams said he will lean heavily on players and Randy Knorr, the bench coach to Davey Johnson, who resigned as Washington manager after last season. Knorr will continue as Williams’ bench coach.
“I have to learn from Randy and players who are here,” Williams said. “Communication is the key. I really like this team, and we have a chance to win if we do things right.”
Looking ahead to the 2014 season, Williams returns to Chase Field with his Nationals for a three game set on May 12-14 and the Diamondbacks visit Washington for four games, Aug. 18-21.
Towers began his off-season transactions on Friday when the Diamondbacks claimed outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo on waivers from Detroit.
On the disabled dist from June 21 until July 5 of last season, Tuiasosopo appeared in 81 games for the Tigers, hit .244 with seven home runs and drove in 30 runs.
Arizona lost reliever Chaz Roe to the Texas Rangers on waivers. In 21 games last season with the D-backs, Roe was 1-0 and a 4.03 ERA.
Elsewhere, the Diamondbacks moved pitchers Daniel Hudson and Matt Reynolds from the 60-day disabled list to the 40 man roster. Both underwent Tommy John surgery recently and neither is expected to pitch in 2014.
Outfielder Cody Ross was also moved from the 60-day disabled list to the 40 man roster. Recovering from hip surgery, Ross hopes to return to full baseball activity by opening day.
As of Nov. 1, the Diamondbacks have 39 players on the 40 man roster.