Hoyer eyes Cards' hitting-coach model
Padres GM plans to fill vacancy with two people
ST. LOUIS -- When the Padres opted to dismiss hitting coach Randy Ready last week, general manager Jed Hoyer indicated that he planned to fill the vacancy with two people.
The hitting coaches would work together with the hitters, but only one would be allowed in the dugout during games.
Hoyer told reporters what he wanted was "a stylistic change more than anything" with the decision, adding he was looking for coaches who will work more with hitters' mechanics.
But where will the Padres find these coaches?
On Monday, Hoyer and other members of the Padres' front office gathered for their annual meetings at their Spring Training facility in Arizona, where, among other things, he discussed how to go about replacing Ready.
"Part of it is hiring the first person and letting [him] find the next person," Hoyer said on Wednesday. "For the second person, it can be a great training ground for a hitting coach -- instead of having it be an arranged marriage. A big part of the job is taking the work from the first person so [he] can instruct."
The decision to essentially have two hitting coaches is rare, but not uncommon. In fact, the Cardinals have a hitting coach in former Major League slugger Mark McGwire and an assistant hitting coach, Mike Aldrete, who played 10 seasons in the big leagues.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who has a comfort level with McGwire and Aldrete from managing them in Oakland, said his hitters are able to get more personalized work by having two coaches working with them.
"With virtually every ballpark having two cages -- the one on the field and the one inside -- there are a lot of times where one guy can't be both places," La Russa said. "Sometimes, even we have two indoor cages. You can't watch both. And then there's the video work.
"If you're playing a series, the next one gets there in a hurry, so Mike will generally stay ahead. Any time Mark is somewhere, he's the other place."
Other than getting better coverage with hitters, La Russa said it's important that the two coaches not only work well together but generally have the same philosophy. In the case of McGwire and Aldrete, the fact that they were former teammates certainly helps.
"The dynamic works because they were teammates in Oakland," La Russa said. "They have a very healthy respect for each other, and their theories are very similar, so ... there's [not as much] danger of stepping on somebody's toes or teaching different things.
"There's no confusion. They discuss the guys all the time, and the players are equally free to take advice from both of them. It gets the work done."
The Padres have two internal candidates who are expected to be given consideration -- Sean Berry, the Padres' Minor League hitting coordinator, and Phil Plantier, who started the season as the hitting coach for Class A Lake Elsinore but was later named the interim manager after Carlos Lezcano resigned on June 2.
Berry and Plantier have a good working relationship, according to those within the Padres' organization. Berry has been highly praised for his work with Minor League coaches throughout the farm system.
There are some who think Hoyer will go outside the organization to fill these roles, too.
The new hires will also offer a new set of opinions on players at the Major League level and beyond.
"This isn't a decision we made lightly," Hoyer said. "It was really based on trying to get someone that can hopefully get some of these young hitters we have -- who may have stalled out a little bit -- to really jump-start these guys and maybe make some changes mechanically that weren't happening."
Some of the players Hoyer may have in mind include rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who excelled at Triple-A Tucson (.331 average, 26 home runs, 101 RBIs) but hit just .141 in 128 big league at-bats, as well as outfielder Will Venable, who got off to a slow start before rallying in the second-half to hit .246.
Ready was hired as the hitting coach on July 31, 2009, after Jim Lefebvre was dismissed after four months on the job. Ready was the Padres' fifth hitting coach since 2006.