PHOENIX -- Bob Melvin remembers the look on Bob Brenly's face after the first intra-squad game of Spring Training.
Brenly, in his first spring at the helm of the Diamondbacks, or any club for the matter, had just gotten through managing both teams in the game and was overwhelmed. Afterwards, the skipper joked with the media, saying that he thought about putting on a steal and calling a pitchout just to show everyone what a smart manager he was.
Melvin, the Diamondbacks bench coach, had suggested to Brenly that he manage both squads. He knew that it would be too much for one person, but he thought it would make it that much easier when Brenly only managed one team during the next intrasquad game the following day.
He was right.
"After managing both teams, managing one almost seemed easy," Brenly said sitting in his office preparing for Saturday's start of the World Series. "That first game was tough. I think in a lot of ways doing things like that during Spring Training prepared me for all the decisions I had to make during the season."
No one ever doubted Brenly's knowledge of the game. A 10-year Major League catcher, he also served as a big league coach before moving into the broadcast booth, where he was widely regarded as one of the best analysts in the game, earning him a spot with FOX Sports doing a game each week and working the postseason.
Then in 1998, he added the role of television analyst for Diamondbacks game. He watched the Diamondbacks win 100 games and the National League West in 1999, before falling apart down the stretch in 2000 under Manager Buck Showalter. When Managing General Partner Jerry Colangelo decided to make a change, Brenly was summoned from the booth to the dugout.
Years as a manager: One
Regular-season record: 92-70, .568
Regular-season record, career: 92-70 .568
Postseason record, career: 7-3 .636
Division titles: One Pennants: One World Series titles: None Managerial style: He wants only two simple things from his players: Be on time and work hard, which the Diamondbacks have done all season. Most of the time, Brenly will not go by the book; relies on hunches. For example, he's using pitcher Brian Anderson as his Game 3 starter at Yankees Stadium, even though the latter has been out of the rotation since August. Who can forget Game 5 of this year's NLCS, when he used left-handed slugger Erubiel Durazo as a pinch-hitter against Braves left-hander Tom Glavine? At least the hunch paid off as Brenly saw Durazo hit an opposite field homer.
The move drew some skepticism considering Brenly had never managed at any level before. Arizona General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr., though, had a different view.
"It's not like we went out and picked someone who had just been a broadcaster," Garagiola said. "This guy played in the big leagues for 10 years, he coached at this level for years. If he hadn't decided to go into the broadcast booth with FOX, his natural progression would have been to become a manager."
One thing Brenly learned quickly was that the pace of the game is quite a bit different on the field than it is in the broadcast booth. Decisions that he had time to explain in the booth had to be made instantaneously in the dugout.
To give an example, Brenly talks about a seventh inning situation of a one-run ballgame. If the opposition's No. 7 hitter leads off with a triple, there are a myriad of things that a manager has to consider.
Does he play in the infield in, back or halfway? Maybe the left side should be in and the right side back or vice versa? Who is in the on-deck circle? Is it the pitcher or a pinch-hitter? If it's the pitcher, is there a pinch-hitter stirring in the dugout? Do they have anyone up in their bullpen so they can pinch-hit for the pitcher?
All the questions and all the possibilities can seem overwhelming at times.
"Every now and then you'll hit a point in the ballgame when it feels like you're going off the edge of the cliff and decisions have to be made quickly," said Brenly, who is the first rookie manager to lead his club to the World Series since Kansas City's Jim Frey in 1980. "That's why we do all this homework and we digest all this information and we digest all this information so that when suddenly Joe Blow steps into the on-deck circle to hit for the pitcher, we know exactly which relief pitcher we want on him. We know where he hits the ball. We know what he likes to hit and that may change the decisions we make. At times it just comes on you like a wave. You're out there surfing on some three-footers and he comes a tidal wave."
Brenly has ridden the wave quite successfully in 2001. Inheriting a talented group of veterans, he has had to mix-and-match a lineup and pitching staff together due to injuries and ineffectiveness.
When closer Matt Mantei was lost for the season, Brenly brought up Bret Prinz and stuck him in the closer's role while using the talented Byung-Hyun Kim as a setup man. Kim eventually took over the stopper's role as Brenly patched together the rest of the bullpen.
With a deep roster of everyday players, Brenly has not been afraid to use his entire bench, starting eight different players in the cleanup spot and playing the hot hand when necessary, even when it meant sitting down veterans like Steve Finley, Jay Bell, Tony Womack or Mark Grace.
The moves worked and Brenly received little complaints from his veteran squad. The skipper also hasn't been afraid to go against standard baseball strategy when he feels the situation calls for it.
He started outfielder Danny Bautista instead of Finley against Tom Glavine in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series despite the fact that Finley had a better postseason average and better career numbers against Glavine. The move paid off, as Bautista ended up driving in Arizona's first run with a single up the middle.
In that same game, he brought the left-handed swinging Erubiel Durazo off the bench to hit instead of right-hander Greg Colbrunn against the left-handed Glavine. Durazo wound up hitting the game-winning homer.
"It keeps you on your toes," Grace said of Brenly's style. "You never know what he's going to do. He doesn't go by the book and I think that's a refreshing change. He'll bring in right-handers to face left-handers and vice versa. He'll pinch-hit in situations that you might not expect, but you're always in the game with him because you know this might be the time he'll want to roll the dice."
Brenly played for Roger Craig and it's easy to see Craig's influence in Brenly's gambling style. While Brenly doesn't believe in momentum from one game to the next, he did learn from Craig how valuable momentum can be within a particular game.
For instance, if the Diamondbacks are batting and the opposing team commits an error or there's confusion on the basepaths, Brenly will use that opportunity to pull a double steal, or a suicide squeeze.
"When there's confusion, or the other team is back on it's heels, that's the time to speed the game up," Brenly said.
By the same token, if his team is struggling, he is not above slowing the game down. It's a trick he says he learned from playing against Los Angeles and Tommy Lasorda.
When the St. Louis Cardinals began to get some momentum in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, Brenly had pitcher Miguel Batista step off the mound or throw over to first to try and calm the crowd and disrupt the pace of the Cardinal hitters.
When he dismissed Showalter and hired Brenly, Colangelo spoke of changing the mood in the clubhouse. While dugout cameras rarely caught Showalter showing an emotion, the same cannot be said of Brenly.
"He manages with his emotions," Grace said. "If you do something well, he's right there at the top step to congratulate you. If you do something poorly, he's right there to pat you on the butt and say, 'Keep after it, we're going to get after it next time.' So you always have positive reinforcement."
When he was offered the manager's job, Brenly had to make a tough decision. He was well-paid as a broadcaster and got to spend time with his family. Plus he didn't have to face the criticism and second-guessing that comes with the manager's title.
In the end though, he had no choice but to take the job. After all, he could finally find out if the ideas and theories he'd developed about running a team would work. As part of his FOX duties, he spent a lot of time talking with big league managers, always quizzing them as to how they handled various situations both on and off the field. It's knowledge he's putting to good use now.
"I just felt like I had something to offer down on the field," Brenly said. "I'd be lying if I said I thought we'd be able to do what we've done this year. I didn't realistically know what to expect. There's just something to be said for putting on this uniform every day and being a part of the game. There's nothing quite like being right down in the middle of it and knowing what's going to happen in some cases before it happens. I love that part of it.
"We always talk about adjustments in the game of baseball, well managers have to make adjustments too."
That's certainly something Brenly's done since that first intrasquad game of the spring.
Steve Gilbert is the site manager of azdiamondbacks.com