Larry Bowa discusses his return with Marshall Harris
Ryne Sandberg added Larry Bowa to the Phillies' staff as bench coach on Tuesday. (USA Today Images)
Ryne Sandberg has his 21st win as Phillies manager.
Sandberg wanted Larry Bowa as his bench coach.
He got him.
“We go back a long way,” Sandberg said after Bowa was officially named to the Phils’ coaching staff Tuesday. “I learned a lot from him as a young player. Now, as a young manager, with his experience and knowledge and information -- I think he'll be a terrific guy by my side. I have a high level of comfort with him, and he’s a top-notch baseball man.”
Bowa played 12 seasons at shortstop for the Phillies and was an All-Star and Gold Glover. He coached third base for the 1993 NL Champion Phils and managed the club from 2001 to 2004.
Bowa did not always leave the organization on good terms, but he always found his way back. This will be his fourth tour of duty with the club.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledged the messiness of Bowa’s previous departures.
“It was something we certainly thought about,” Amaro said. “But at the end of the day, Ryne's comfort level and Larry’s ability as a baseball person -- his knowledge of the game -- really overrode any ill feelings.
“For us, it's about getting the best people for Ryne to support him in the best way. Baseball seems to be cyclical. That's part of baseball. The fact of the matter is Larry’s an outstanding baseball man. This is not about Larry Bowa, this is about building a staff around and with Ryne that's going to be most effective. Clearly, Ryne felt that Larry was someone important to him.”
Bowa is known for being emotional and fiery. He speaks his mind and is not afraid to ruffle feathers. Some people love that about him. Others hate it.
Sandberg spoke to Bowa about his demeanor and does not think it will be a problem.
“I like people to be themselves,” Sandberg said. “But he's coming on board to support me and be one of the coaches. Everybody works together. I've had good conversations with him and he's totally on board with supporting me and doing his job.
“A little bit of energy and excitement is something he can bring to the ballclub in a positive way. We've had discussions about that and he's totally on board with what's going to be asked of him. I'm excited to have him around.”
Pete Mackanin was named third-base coach. He and Sandberg go back to the days when Sandberg played for the Chicago Cubs and Mackanin was a minor-league manager in that organization.
Mackanin was former manager Charlie Manuel’s bench coach from 2009-12. He was let go after the 2012 season and spent 2013 as a scout with the Yankees.
The Phillies still have at least one opening on their staff -- and it’s a big one. They need a pitching coach. Rich Dubee’s contract was not renewed after nine seasons. The Phils have not officially named a first-base coach or a bullpen coach, but holdovers Juan Samuel and Rod Nichols are both under consideration for those positions.
While Sandberg was clearly the driving force behind the hirings of Bowa and Mackanin, he will only be part of the decision-making process in selecting a pitching coach. Amaro said Nichols, a former minor-league pitching coach with the Phillies and the team’s bullpen coach in 2013, is a candidate for the job. But Amaro is clearly looking for other candidates, as well. He said an interview process would begin shortly.
“We're vetting out the best candidates,” Amaro said. “It's going to be a process. It's going to take some time, we think, because we're not really sure about all of the possible candidates who will be available. Clearly, there is a lot of movement going on around the league. We have done a great deal of research on possible candidates.”
Amaro said the next pitching coach does not have to have big-league experience, but it would be helpful.
“As far as prerequisites, we're just looking for the best guy,” Amaro said. “We're looking for someone who can both handle the staff and someone we feel has the right philosophy to move this club forward.”