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Cardinals promote Mabry to hitting coach

McGwire departs after three seasons; Ilsley named bullpen coach

ST. LOUIS -- With Mark McGwire expected to be announced as the Dodgers' next hitting coach within the next few days, the Cardinals moved quickly to name his replacement. The search didn't go far, either, as John Mabry, who served as assistant hitting coach under McGwire in 2012, steps up to take the vacated position.

The Cardinals made the official announcement on Monday, with the organization also naming Blaise Ilsley as the team's new bullpen coach. Ilsley, who served as the pitching coach at Triple-A Memphis for the past five seasons, replaces Dyar Miller, who did not have his contract renewed after the 2012 season.

The other members of the club's 2012 coaching staff -- first-base coach Chris Maloney, third-base coach Jose Oquendo, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bench coach Mike Aldrete -- have been extended offers to return to manager Mike Matheny's 2013 staff.

"I could not have been more impressed by the way these coaches went about their business last season, and I am excited by the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead as we continue to grow as a team," Matheny said.

With Mabry's promotion, the Cardinals are conducting a search for a new assistant hitting coach. The Cardinals are among a growing group of teams to employ a pair of hitting coaches.

The Cardinals announced Miller's dismissal just three days after the team's season ended, citing Matheny's desire to put his own handprint on the staff. The rest of the staff shakeup was dictated by McGwire's decision not to return after being asked back by the organization.

McGwire was named the Cardinals' hitting coach in October 2009, giving him his first opportunity to return to baseball since retiring as a player in 2001. Under McGwire, the Cardinals led the National League in on-base percentage (.338) in 2012 and ranked second in batting average (.271) and runs scored (765).

His decision to pursue a coaching position with the Dodgers was prompted by a desire to be closer to his family, which resides in Southern California.

Mabry wrapped up a 14-year playing career in 2007 and joined a Major League coaching staff for the first time in 2012. Though he worked with all the position players, Mabry was lauded particularly for his work with the club's bench players. Having spent much of his career in a reserve role, Mabry proposed suggestions about routine and mental preparation to those now in similar spots.

Ilsley joined the organization in 2002 and spent six seasons serving as the Double-A pitching coach. He joined Triple-A Memphis' staff in 2008, which has given him the opportunity to work with many of the Cardinals homegrown pitchers. In 2012, for instance, he worked extensively with Shelby Miller, helping the prospect emerge from an early funk.

The Cardinals had indicated early in their search for a new bullpen coach that they hoped to promote a candidate from within the organization.

"The contributions made by our coaches has helped to assure a winning culture throughout the Cardinals organization," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We are fortunate to be in a position to have such talented coaches within our organization who are at the ready when opportunities at the big league level arise."

Though the Cardinals have not announced their Minor League coaching assignments for 2013, at least one change is known. Dennis Martinez, who worked as the pitching coach in high Class A Palm Beach this year, accepted a position to be the Astros' bullpen coach.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.
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