PHOENIX -- One day after the conclusion of the 2019 season, the D-backs shook up their coaching staff a bit by declining to retain pitching coach Mike Butcher and flipping the roles of bench coach Jerry Narron and extra coach Luis Urueta.
The rest of the coaches on manager Torey Lovullo’s staff will return in their current roles. They include: Darnell Coles (hitting coach), Mike Fetters (bullpen coach), Robby Hammock (quality control coach), Eric Hinske (assistant hitting coach), Dave McKay (first-base coach) and Tony Perezchica (third-base coach).
Butcher, who has been a Major League pitching coach for 14 seasons, was hired prior to the 2016 campaign and was in the final year of his contract in 2019.
Despite losing Luke Weaver to an early season injury and dealing ace Zack Greinke at the Trade Deadline, D-backs pitchers finished seventh in the National League in ERA with a 4.25 mark.
“It was a very tough decision for me,” Lovullo said. “He [Butcher] and I have had a long relationship. I’ve known him for over 30 years, and he’s done some wonderful things for this organization. I want to make sure that I throw that out there before I explain that I just think philosophically, there were some differences that were happening. I wanted to explore some different angles, and I wanted to see what we could get into to make us a little bit better.”
D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said the search for a new pitching coach will begin over the next couple of weeks. First, the team needs to decide what it’s looking for in its new pitching coach.
“We want to sit down and really start to put together what that might look like,” Hazen said. “I think we need to take a little time away from the season to kind of put those things together. I think there’s different ways to look at how we’re putting all of these things together. I don’t think we have a specific answer. We haven’t had a chance to sit down and really talk about that just yet.”
Narron joined Lovullo’s staff in 2017. He was scheduled to begin that year as the team’s Triple-A manager, but filled in for bench coach Ron Gardenhire, who missed the beginning of the season after being diagnosed with cancer.
When Gardenhire returned, Narron stayed on the staff as an extra coach and moved to the bench role when Gardenhire was hired to manage the Tigers after the season.
Urueta is a longtime member of the organization. He was signed in 1998 as the D-backs’ first Colombian player and played four seasons in the Minor Leagues from 1999 to 2002. He was in his second year on Lovullo’s staff after serving in a variety of roles in the system.
“He’s going to sit next to me and he’s going to challenge me, and he’s going to continue to offer the great baseball expertise that he’s had for the many years he’s been in this game,” Lovullo said. “I feel like he deserved this opportunity. I’m excited about it. I feel like he’s going to make us better in a lot of different areas because of who he is, and what he can offer me and what he can offer the other coaches.”
Hazen said the team was still assessing the 2019 season, but judging by his comments, the two areas the team will look to add to the most are the bullpen and outfield.
The organization’s goal is to have more competition throughout the roster in 2020, and they seem to have that in place when it comes to infielders and the starting rotation.
Archie Bradley finished the year as the closer, but that doesn’t mean the D-backs will shy away from adding to that aspect of the team.
“I’ll leave that up to him [Lovullo],” Hazen said, when asked if Bradley would close in 2020. “That’s his decision. But I will say we will be focused on adding back-end-of-the-bullpen help ... I’ll leave that up to Torey, as always, as far as what role guys fill."
Spot for Marte?
Ketel Marte had a career year while shuttling between second base and center field. His season was cut short in September when he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his back.
It’s possible the D-backs decide to play him at just one position next year, but Hazen said the team really values the flexibility he adds by being able to play both so well.