The 2018 New York Yankees Coaching Staff (allegedly)…
The Yankees have yet to officially announce Manager Aaron Boone’s coaching staff but the names are taking hold.
Here’s what we know:
Bench Coach: Josh Bard
Pitching Coach: Larry Rothschild
Third Base Coach: Phil Nevin
First Base Coach: Reggie Willits
Infield Coach: Carlos Mendoza
Hitting Coach: Marcus Thames
Assistant Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Bullpen Coach: Mike Harkey
Bard is a first-time bench coach and was a former teammate with Aaron Boone in Cleveland. Last year, he was the bullpen coach for the World Series-losing Los Angeles Dodgers. Bard, 39, played for five teams between 2002 and 2011. He accumulated 586 plate appearances, with 39 home runs, 220 RBIs, and .254 batting average. His most notable accomplishment came in 2006 as a member of the Boston Red Sox when he opened the season with ten passed balls in his first five games, including three passed balls in his first appearance, with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound. Bard was born in Ithaca, New York, but he grew up in Elizabeth, Colorado (just outside of Denver). After retirement, he joined the Dodgers as a special assistant before his appointment as the bullpen coach in 2016 for manager Dave Roberts.
Larry needs no introduction to Yankees fans as he has been the team’s pitching coach since the 2011 season when he replaced the fired Dave Eiland. Eiland, ironically, will be back in New York this year as the new pitching coach for the Mets. Rothschild, 63, was the original manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Rays) when they entered the American League, and, a native Chicagoan, he was a long-time pitching coach for the Cubs.
Nevin is remembered as the first pick of the 1992 MLB Draft, the year that Derek Jeter slid to the Yankees at the sixth position. Remembered primarily as the third baseman for the San Diego Padres, Nevin, 47, played for seven teams over 12 MLB seasons. In 1,217 games, Nevin hit 208 home runs and 743 RBIs to go with a .270 batting average. After his playing career, Nevin held a few minor league managerial positions before becoming the third base coach for the San Francisco Giants for the 2017 season. Although he was fired after the season (along with long-time pitching coach Dave Righetti), Nevin was rumored to become the Giants bench coach had the Yankees hired current bench coach Hensley Meulens as their manager. Nevin attend high school (El Dorado High School in Placentia, California) with Aaron Boone’s brother Bret and is a long-time friend of the Boone family. Nevin presently makes his home in Poway, California, near San Diego.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Darryl Webb)|
Willits was an outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels during the course of his MLB playing career from 2006 to 2011. Willits, 36, was named after Yankees great Reggie Jackson. The Oklahoman joined the Yankees organization in 2015 as a minor league outfield and base-running coordinator. This will be his first MLB coaching job. Willits did not hit any home runs during his MLB career (1,014 plate appearances) but he’ll certainly have the opportunity to see MANY guys round first base on their home run trots this year.
|Photo Credit: The Oklahoman (Chris Landsberger)|
Mendoza, 43, was primarily a minor league outfielder. He made it to the Show with the New York Mets in 1997 and the Colorado Rockies in 2000 (total of 28 games). The Venezuelan native has coached or managed in the Yankees minor league system since 2009. As the new infield coach for the Yankees, he’ll be in uniform in the dugout during games.
Last year, Thames served as the assistant hitting coach under Alan Cockrell on Joe Girardi’s staff. This year, he becomes the hitting coach for the new manager. Thames, 40, came up in the Yankees organization, and the outfielder played for four MLB teams, primarily the Detroit Tigers, from 2002 to 2011. The Yankees traded Thames to the Texas Rangers in the 2003 deal that brought Ruben Sierra to New York. Thames, originally from Mississippi, played in 640 games, batting .246 with 115 home runs and 301 RBIs. He became the Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach for the 2016 season when Cockrell was elevated to Hitting Coach to replace Jeff Pentland. Thames will never forget his first MLB at-bat when he jumped on the first pitch from Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 10, 2002 for a home run.
Pilittere, 36, was a former minor league catcher who has spent his entire career in the Yankees organization. He was selected in the 13th round of the 2004 MLB Draft, and advanced as high as Triple A when his playing career ended in 2011. 2017 will be Pilittere’s seventh year coaching in the Yankees organization. The Buffalo, New York native (and die-hard Bills fan) served as hitting coach for then-manager Al Pedrique last year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Pilittere has strong relationships with current Yankees like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird.
Asked about his promotion to Assistant Hitting Coach for the big league club, Pilittere told the Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), “The thing that doesn’t change is it’s still about players, and players still want to get better. The good ones and the best ones and the ones on our roster want to get better until the day that the uniform is taken away from them, and I think that is what creates a championship atmosphere and I think that’s what we want to promote around the clubhouse. I know that’s what we want to promote — is always looking to do better and always doing what it takes to help the team. The only thing that I think that slightly might change a little bit is that it still is developing guys at the big-league level and getting the most out of our players, but that only thing that does change is at the end of the day it’s about getting the win a 7 o’clock. It’s, ‘What can we do to win ball games. What can we do to have a championship season in 2018?’”
|P.J. Pilittere, holding camera on left|
Harkey, 51, is expected to return as the Yankees bullpen coach. Harkey, a native of California, is a former MLB pitcher who played for five teams from 1988 through 1997. Over eight years, Harkey pitched in 131 games, including 104 starts. He was 36-36 with 4.49 ERA and 216 strikeouts. He served as the Yankees bullpen coach from 2008 until 2013 when he was hired as the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. After his dismissal by the D-Backs at the end of the 2015 season, he returned to the Yankees as their bullpen coach the following season.
|Mike Harkey, right (as if the guy on the left is unrecognizable)|
Aaron Boone has done a good job bringing diversity to his coaching staff. I would have preferred a veteran bench coach but there’s plenty of experience to be offered by guys like Larry Rothschild and Phil Nevin. Despite the lack of experience as a bench coach, Josh Bard seems to be a manager-in-training and will most likely be leading another team against the Yankees at some point in the not-so-distant future if he proves successful in his current role.
It’s sad to see the old faces depart. Former bench coach Rob Thomson will serve the same role for first-time manager Gabe Kapler with the Philadelphia Phillies. Third base coach Joe Espada replaced new Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora as the bench coach for the World Champion Houston Astros. Guys like Tony Pena and Alan Cockrell served the Yankees well, and I wish them the best with their coaching careers. Nevertheless, I am excited about the potential of the new coaching staff that Boone has assembled. They’ve been charged with bringing the Yankees, a team that came within a game of reaching the World Series, their 28th World Series championship (and more). No pressure. So, welcome to the Yankees Family, Newcomers and welcome back, Holdovers! We’re happy and excited to see you in Pinstripes in 2018!
It’s been funny following the suggestions for the home run call that Yankees radio play-by-play announcer John Sterling will use for Giancarlo Stanton. I don’t recall who made the suggestion, but I really like “Giancarlo dropped the Mike”. There have been some great suggestions, but it will be interesting to hear what Sterling actually uses when Stanton goes yard for the first-time as a Yankee. I am sure that he’ll come up with something that none of us have heard before.
|Photo Credit: YES Network (E.H. Wallop)|
We only have two more weekends beyond this one until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. Players and coaches have already begun their migration to the Sunshine State. Soon, very soon…
Thoughts While We Wait for the Press Conference…
Aaron John Boone officially takes the reins as the 33rd Manager of the New York Yankees today at Noon ET. I continue to see so many opinions, both strongly tilted toward the pros and the cons. Being upset or taking a strong position that Boone is not the right guy serves no purpose. Regardless of how you feel, Boone will be the guy delivering the lineup card on Opening Day, March 29th, at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. There is nothing that you can do or say that will change Boone from taking that walk. So, it is in our best interests to unite and support the next manager of the Yankees.
|Credit: Sporting News Archive/Getty Images|
Personally, I am excited to see what Boone can do. Admittedly, I wasn’t crazy about the lack of managerial or coaching experience but Boone has so many other positive attributes. We’ve heard about his unique ability to relate with everyone, his sense of humor, his immersion into Major League Baseball as a youngster due to his grandfather, Ray Boone, and father, Bob Boone, both Major Leaguers. Boone has said that he has prepared for 44 years for this job. Boone’s predecessor, Joe Girardi, won a Manager of the Year Award in his first season as a manager with no coaching or managing experience (2006 with the then-Florida Marlins). Granted, he was fired after the season, but still, there’s no reason that Boone can’t reach the same accomplishments (excluding the end of the year firing).
The immediate decisions that face Boone is the composition of his coaching staff. Larry Rothschild is returning as the team’s Pitching Coach but so far, that’s the only official announcement. The bench coach will be a critical hire and needs to be someone with strong managerial experience. The Yankees lost very strong in-house candidates when Josh Paul, Rob Thomson, and Al Pedrique left to join the coaching staffs of other MLB teams. Eric Wedge’s name has been thrown out as a possibility but so far, there have been no strong indications who might take the role. Yankees minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza have been cited as possibilities for the staff but neither has the experience to serve as bench coach. I am expecting the return of Alan Cockrell, Hitting Coach, and Marcus Thames, Assistant Hitting Coach, although they could just as easily walk away. It’s been mentioned that Mike Harkey, the bullpen coach and a Girardi buddy, could return. That one does surprise me a little since he was a Girardi friend and hire. Tony Pena is someone the Yankees should bring back. He’s certainly qualified to serve as bench coach despite his years as the first base coach.
Perhaps Boone addresses the coaching staff during today’s press conference or the staff is assembled over the next few weeks. Either way, I will be watching and listening with interest.
Al Pedrique’s departure (to join the Oakland A’s as first base coach) creates an opening at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. A replacement has not been named but I could easily see the elevation of High A-Tampa Yankees Manager Jay Bell to the position. I really hated to see Pedrique go. I felt he would have been the ideal bench coach…an experienced manager who has strong relationships with the younger Yankees. The A’s denied the Yankees permission to talk to their manager, Bob Melvin, but then stole one of the Yankees’ best coaches. Almost immediately, the A’s fans talked about the excitement of a coach who could help mold Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian based on his past experiences with them. Ouch! He could have been doing that with the Baby Bombers.
|Credit: Jason Farmer, Scranton Times-Tribune|
It was sad to see Rob Thomson take a lateral position with the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving the Yankees after 28 years in the organization. He will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge for Phillies rookie manager Gabe Kapler. Thomson must like sitting next to very physically-fit managers. It’s too bad he won’t be there for Aaron Boone but it’s probably hard to stay with an organization when you are passed over for a job you felt should be yours.
It’s a tough time to fill a coaching staff considering most other teams have finalized their respective staffs. I keep half-expecting Bret Boone to added. No idea what qualifications he has other than being a former Major Leaguer but like Aaron, he obviously grew up in a baseball family. His recent jokes about sexual harassment probably nixed the possibility he’d join his brother’s team.
|Credit: Alan Berner, The Seattle Times|
The Yankees have cash to spend on the international market ($3.5 million) with the rejection by Shohei Otani but so far, the Yankees have been idle while Billy Eppler and the Los Angeles Angels have been very aggressive. Yesterday, the Angels signed two former Braves prospects including the top-rated shortstop Kevin Maitan and another shortstop, Livan Soto. The Yankees need to bring in more catching prospects but the Phillies grabbed former Braves catching prospect Abrahan Gutierrez.
Baseball activity seems to be picking up in general. The minor free agent signings are picking up so there should be major movement with the free agent market over the coming days. The Baseball Winter Meetings start Sunday in Orlando, Florida so next week should be a wild ride. Clint Frazier’s latest tweet (@clintfrazier) was “my cat has been staring at my shower drain for three straight hours and i’m freaking out”. We really need more excitement with the Yankees!
Today should be a fun day. Welcome (back) to the Bronx, Aaron Boone! Go Yankees!