D-backs announce changes to coaching staff
Gibson leads group of those asked back; Nagy, Sax no longer with Arizona
PHOENIX -- The D-backs declined to renew the contracts of pitching coach Charles Nagy and first-base/baserunning coach Steve Sax for 2014.
The other members of the staff -- manager Kirk Gibson, third-base coach Matt Williams, bench coach Alan Trammell, bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock, hitting coach Don Baylor and assistant hitting coach Turner Ward -- were invited back, however there is no guarantee they will fill the same roles next season.
"There could be some slight adjustment," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said. "Everything is a fluid situation. Nothing is set in stone right yet, and they're all aware of that."
There is also no guarantee the coaches who have been invited back will return. Williams has been mentioned as a managerial candidate with other clubs, and the team must still negotiate contracts with the coaches. All of the coaches, including Nagy and Sax, have contracts that expire at the end of October.
Nagy had been the pitching coach since 2011 and received praise for his work that year with the staff.
Ian Kennedy won 21 games and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young ballot that year as the D-backs captured the NL West title.
"We've had a few of our pitchers regress, and looking at the staff as a whole specifically since 2011, I think we've had more pitchers that have regressed than have actually gotten better," Towers said. "Sometimes that's leadership, sometimes that's just players having poor years. We just thought change was important."
While Towers declined to specify the areas in which he thought Nagy could have performed better, it sounded like the team was looking for more of a fiery personality than Nagy, who was very cerebral in his approach.
"Somebody that knows mechanics, somebody that can supply leadership, somebody who is not afraid to chew a little rear end when it needs to be done," Towers said when asked what qualities he was looking for in selecting the new pitching coach. "And somebody that will communicate well in-game."
One of Towers' complaints with the staff this past season was that he did not feel they pitched inside enough, especially given the hitter-friendly conditions of Chase Field.
While the D-backs ranked sixth in the NL in most hit batters (60), and Kennedy touched off a melee with the Dodgers by hitting Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke, pitching inside is different from hitting batters.
"The clubs that I've had that have had success, we've been a tough staff; we've been a staff that we're not going to get knocked around," Towers said. "When we go in and face clubs, it's going to be uncomfortable at-bats for them. To me, personality is very important, certainly has to be somebody that Gibby is comfortable with, somebody that can communicate with Gibby. I think that pitching coach/manager dialogue and communication is vital, but to me I just kind of want somebody that's going to get our pitching staff to take that plate back -- at least that inner half of the plate back -- something that I think we've lost."
As for Sax, he took the fall for the team's poor baserunning. The D-backs finished last in the NL in stolen base percentage (60 percent).
Teaching baserunning under Gibson can be tricky. It is an area of the game that Gibson considers himself to have been very good at during his playing days, and he loves to study the minutiae that goes into being successful.
Eric Young Sr. was the first base/baserunning coach from 2011-12 before being replaced by Sax.
"Basically with our base-stealing, we started out the year not too good, probably forced the issue a little too much," Gibson said. "Then we kind of got settled down and were more successful late in the year. I've had two different baserunning coaches over the last two years. It's an area that I excelled at as a player. It's an area maybe that I haven't done as good a job of helping those guys and leading them as best I can, but we're going to try and do that."
Gibson is scheduled to return to Phoenix on Monday, and he and Towers will begin to sift through candidates for the two openings within the organization as well as casting a wide net around baseball.
"For me personally, I feel like I let them down in a way as well," Gibson said of Nagy and Sax. "Both guys busted their tails, prepared as best they could. Maybe we want to just go in a little different direction in those two areas."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.