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Reds add House, Ecker to Bell's coaching staff

November 17, 2018

CINCINNATI -- The Reds formally announced two more coaches to new manager David Bell's staff on Monday. They hired J.R. House as their third-base and catching coach and Donnie Ecker as assistant hitting coach.The additions give Bell four coaches total following the hiring of pitching coach Derek Johnson and hitting

CINCINNATI -- The Reds formally announced two more coaches to new manager David Bell's staff on Monday. They hired J.R. House as their third-base and catching coach and Donnie Ecker as assistant hitting coach.
The additions give Bell four coaches total following the hiring of pitching coach Derek Johnson and hitting coach Turner Ward this month.
House, whose hiring was first reported by MLB.com on Saturday, spent the past seven seasons in the D-backs player development system and just completed his first year as that organization's Minor League field coordinator. He also logged four seasons as a Minor League manager, including 2017 at Double-A Jackson, while working for Mike Bell -- David's brother and the head of Arizona's director of player development.
"A strong background as a field coordinator with the Diamondbacks, he also managed a couple of years in the Minor Leagues, so he has experience coaching third base," Bell said. "He was highly recommended. I spent a lot of time with him over the last week or so on the phone."
House also has experience coordinating and scheduling Minor League Spring Training for Arizona and will likely be part of scheduling the big league camp for Cincinnati.
A native of West Virginia, the 39-year-old House played parts of five big league seasons as a catcher for the Pirates, Astros and Orioles -- totaling 32 games. A fifth-round Draft pick of Pittsburgh in 1999, he played 11 seasons in the Minors and was a .299 hitter.
In 2005, House left pro baseball to be a college football quarterback at West Virginia.
"In the end, it's about J.R. as a person," Bell said. "From a personality standpoint, he brings experiences and is just a good fit from a skill set and expertise standpoint. He fits in nicely at third base for us. He has the right personality and approach for that position."
Ecker, 32, replaces Tony Jaramillo, who was the assistant hitting coach under Don Long for the previous three seasons.
During the 2018 season, Ecker completed his first year in the Angels' organization as the hitting coach at Triple-A Salt Lake. A Minor League and independent league player for four seasons, he began coaching at Los Altos High School in California in 2013 and joined the Cardinals' player development system in 2015 as a hitting coach at Class A Palm Beach for two seasons, followed by Class A Advanced Peoria in '17.
"I've developed a relationship with him over the last few years," Bell said. "I met him originally when he was in the Cardinals' organization as a young hitting coach. I've actually learned a ton from him on the hitting side. I was looking for the right combination with Turner and Turner's background and his long career and experiences.
"Donnie has a really good understanding of the swing from a data standpoint. He's great with mechanics and a great feel for being able to take information data from an analytics side and understanding the mechanics of the swing and being able to communicate that and tie it all together."
Bell and president of baseball operations Dick Williams have more spots to fill on the staff -- namely bench coach and first-base coach. Bell said it's possible they could be filled by members of the previous staff under Bryan Price and Jim Riggleman.
Billy Hatcher was the Reds' third-base coach for the past three seasons and the first-base coach from 2006-15. Freddie Benavides spent five years on the coaching staff and the last three as first-base coach.
"There hasn't been a decision made there. We have a couple of spots left. It's getting closer. It's been quite a process," Bell said.
Mike Stefanski was the most recent catching coach, serving the club the past five years. He will not be returning to the big league staff.
One common thread among Bell and most of the hires is their recent experience on the player development side. Bell did not consider that to be a mandatory prerequisite for his coaches' resumes.
"You look at a lot of the good coaches out there, resumes and people that have the background you're looking for, it ultimately does lead to people that have been in player development," Bell said. "It's not a box that has to be checked, necessarily, but it certainly helps. That's part of what we do. It's part of being a good coach."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.