It didn’t take John Farrell long to put his stamp on his new club.
The new Blue Jays manager blended some old with some new in establishing his coaching staff for the coming season. Pitching coach Bruce Walton, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy and third base coach Brian Butterfield are all back, with bench coach Don Wakamatsu, first base coach Torey Lovullo and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen joining the fold.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these names and examine what their arrival in (or return to) Toronto means for the club.
Among the returnees, Walton was a no-brainer to have back for his terrific handling of a young rotation last season. Murphy didn’t have quite the same level of success, but was instrumental in Jose Bautista’s standout season and will be looked upon to work with Adam Lind and Aaron Hill on their approach at the plate.
The most remarkable return could be that of Butterfield, who would not have been blamed were he to skip town and find work elsewhere rather than work under Farrell, who beat him out for the managerial position. While there would typically be some cause for concern over a possible power struggle in the clubhouse, Butterfield simply isn’t that kind of guy.
Among the newcomers, Hentgen will catch the attention of fans for his history with the club, but he likely won’t have the immediate impact of Wakamatsu or Lovullo.
Wakamatsu comes to Toronto fresh off a disappointing follow-up to his 85-win first year as skipper of the Seattle Mariners in which he was fired after managing just s 43-70 record for a squad expected to compete for the AL West crown. However, the majors’ first Asian-American manager clearly remains respected as a baseball mind, as evidenced by his name popping up as a candidate for openings in New York and Milwaukee before joining the Jays. A former catcher, Wakamatsu will be integral in helping ease the development of J.P. Arencibia.
Lovullo, meanwhile, is a Farrell choice through and through. A ten-year manager in the minors, including eight years with the Cleveland Indians organization and a one-year stint with the Class AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, Lovullo has been a close friend of Farrell’s since their Cleveland days. Boston has now been left with several holes to fill on the coaching staff and in the front office, with Farrell, Lovullo, former Pawtucket hitting coach Gerald Perry and former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi all flying the coop.
Hentgen, for what it’s worth, is about as good a hiring as you can make for someone with no coaching experience. The 1996 Cy Young winner worked as hard at his craft as any Blue Jays pitcher this side of Roy Halladay and is familiar to current Jays pitchers for his involvement with the team during recent Spring Training guest instruction sessions.
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Written by Ben Fisher