Cards part ways with asst. hitting coach Budaska

August 14th, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Philosophical differences and the way those differences were handled led to the dismissal of assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska on Monday afternoon.

As a result, Triple-A Memphis hitting coach Jobel Jimenez has joined the Major League staff for the remainder of the season.

“It really came down to philosophical differences in what we’re trying to do,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “As the season wore on, we just didn’t feel like it was clicking. Ultimately, we had to make a decision. I’ve really enjoyed my time working with Buddha, but we felt like for the better good that we had to make a change.”

Hitting coach Jeff Albert, who was hired in the offseason, is heavy into analytics, while Budaska operates more on feel. While those differences in approach was one reason for the change, manager Mike Shildt -- who made the decision backed by the Cardinals' front office -- said it also came down to how those differences were handled.

The Cardinals are tackling today’s game with the technology available, while also trying to blend what has worked with regards to hitting in the past.

“I think it’s just more about creating consistent clarity and messaging,” Shildt said. “It doesn’t have to be Kumbaya and everyone doesn’t have to work off the same script all the time, but there does need to be clarity in what that looks like, and ultimately for the player, the communication being consistent and supported. I didn’t feel like that was taking place on a consistent basis ... at the end of the day, it’s about how it gets handled. I felt like it was better to move forward with a little more clarity.”

The 66-year-old Budaska was in his first full season as the Cards' assistant hitting coach after serving as interim hitting coach during the second half of 2018, and filling that role during Bill Mueller's brief leave of absence in '17. Budaska was Memphis' hitting coach from '08-'18 and he mentored several current Cardinals, including Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong. Budaska had a hand in prepping many former Cards for the Major Leagues, too, like David Freese, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Allen Craig.

“Buddha is a guy who was able to simplify things for me,” Wong said. “There are a lot of things that I’m going to miss him for, but like I said, this is a business, we all understand that, and we understand that decisions have to be made.”

Wong and DeJong said they were a little surprised to hear the news on Monday. Shildt sat down with every position player -- including Harrison Bader, who is in Memphis to work on his swing -- and explained the reasoning behind the change.

“I thought [Budaska] had a good feel to the game,” DeJong said. “There were differences in him and Jeff based on working on weaknesses and working on strengths, so there were some differences of opinion, but overall, I think I got information from both of them.

“I think Jeff pretty much took the reins [when he was hired]. Buddha was there as a secondary resource, and I know guys used both Jeff and him. Sometimes there’s different ways of looking at things. When they don’t talk and share ideas, sometimes it’s hard to get some collaboration.”

Jimenez has worked in the Cardinals' organization for the majority of 12 years, starting in 2007 as the hitting coach of the club's Venezuelan Summer League team. He’s moved his way up through the Minor League system and he is in his first season with Memphis after spending two years with Double-A Springfield from '17-18.

He’s worked with many young players who are on the Major League roster now, like Tommy Edman, Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena, who was called up on Monday.

“I had Jobel in 2015 in [Class A] Peoria,” DeJong said. “I’m comfortable with him. Jobel also simplifies things, he has a good feel, he understands the game, and we’re going to rely on him.

“New energy, new direction, I think can be good for all of us.”