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Hinch eager to get back 'in the trenches' with Astros

SAN DIEGO -- Astros manager A.J. Hinch is older and wiser and admittedly better prepared to be a Major League manager this time around than he was five years ago.

Hinch was 34 years old when he was named manager of the D-backs early in the 2009 season, replacing Bob Melvin, who was dismissed just 29 games into the campaign. The move generated controversy due to the former big league catcher's lack of managing and coaching experience.

He was thrown into a nearly impossible situation and certainly took some lumps. Hinch was let go a little more than a year later after managing just 212 games, but general manager Jeff Luhnow tabbed him in September to manage with hopes he'll be in the dugout when the Astros return to the playoffs.

"I do feel more prepared," Hinch said during a news conference Monday at the Winter Meetings. "The ups and downs in this job will teach you a lot along the way. I think any experience you have, good or bad, is good experience. I go from being one of the youngest managers when I took over in Arizona to now maybe not as much of an outlier. There's a younger one, like last week. So I feel old and experienced."

The younger manager Hinch was referring to is former big league catcher Kevin Cash, who was hired to manage the Rays last week at 37 years old. When asked if he had any advice for Cash, Hinch quipped: "I would tell him he's going to gray up a little bit over the course of the next couple of years."

Hinch, now 40 with hits of gray, credits his past failures with helping him land the job with the Astros. He's got six more years of baseball and life experience. He served as the Padres' vice president and assistant general manager for three years prior to joining the Astros.

"I would tell you I wouldn't give that experience away for anything, because I think it primarily was the driving force," he said. "When Jeff wrote down on his paper what he was looking for, one thing he told me was he was looking for someone that had a little bit of experience. If I hadn't gone through those trials and things ‑‑ and we had good things, too; it wasn't just all bad in Arizona ‑‑ I might not have got this job. So I went from somebody with no experience to somebody with a wide array of experience.

"So now it's up to me to take those life lessons, whether it's interacting with players, whether it's maybe taking a step back and seeing the club from a different perspective. But I've learned a lot in six years through my jobs, but also just being around the Major League club and being a part of an organization that I feel can be useful."

Ultimately, getting back in the managerial chair will allow Hinch the chance to have the competition he craves. Running the scouting department and player development or negotiating contracts doesn't get the adrenaline flowing like managing.

"I think this job is fascinating, how it interacts with players and how it interacts with the front office, the 27 outs on the field," he said. "When you take the uniform off as a player, it's hard to replace that competitiveness. It's hard to replace that life in the trenches.

"Certainly I think I got a taste of that in Arizona. The taste wasn't always great. I look forward to that new challenge again. But at heart, I'm a field guy that wants to compete every single day. And at the end of the day you either win or you lose. And this is a fun job because of the players and the relationships you build."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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