FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On the eve of Spring Training, which starts for the Red Sox on Wednesday morning, the club officially elevated bench coach Ron Roenicke to interim manager on Tuesday.
But that interim title should vanish quickly.
Once MLB completes the sign-stealing investigation involving the 2018 Red Sox, Roenicke is expected to be named the 48th manager in club history.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom all but said that at Tuesday’s press conference.
“I want to say a couple of things about the interim tag on this title -- after talking through it as an organization, we felt that naming Ron our interim manager was the best way to respect the investigation that’s ongoing into our 2018 club, but we feel very strongly about Ron’s ability to lead this group and how well-suited he is for this task,” said Bloom.
To be clear, the Red Sox have no expectation of Roenicke being implicated when MLB releases its findings in the coming days. But Bloom felt it was important to respect the process.
“We have no reason to think that there’s anything that would cause an adverse result for Ron in this investigation, but of course the investigation is not complete,” Bloom said. “It’s not fair for us to determine that. Obviously, we can’t determine what comes out of the investigation, and so we’re going to respect the ongoing investigation and we’ll address permanency once it’s complete.”
In the 63-year-old Roenicke, the Red Sox have a seasoned leader who has coached for nearly three decades, including a stint as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011-15. Roenicke also managed for five years at various levels of the Dodgers’ farm system in the 1990s.
What type of manager are the Red Sox getting in Roenicke?
“The main thing that I think I do the best is to get the most out of the players,” Roenicke said. “It really doesn't change so much whether you're a coach or a manager. That really is your ultimate goal -- what do we have to do to get whatever abilities these guys have, to perform those abilities on the field?
“I think you have a bigger voice as a manager. You're able to maybe dive into the pitching more than if I was a bench coach or hitting coach, so you can touch more of the guys more often when you're a manager. So it is a different voice. That's what I think that I do the best.”
There’s no doubt his promotion is going to play well in the clubhouse, where Roenicke became a popular figure as Alex Cora’s bench coach over the last two seasons.
“Amazing. Very intellectual guy. Great mind. Has a love for the game. He’s great,” Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said of Roenicke on Tuesday morning.
It has been a topsy-turvy few weeks for the Red Sox after they mutually parted ways with Cora due to MLB’s findings that he played a central role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal as Houston’s bench coach in 2017.
Following a thorough search in which the Sox interviewed another internal candidate in third-base coach Carlos Febles as well as at least three external candidates (D-backs bench coach Luis Urueta, former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay), Bloom and his staff became convinced that Roenicke was the right guy to replace Cora.
“I think going through that process made us feel very strongly that Ron is the right guy to lead our group forward right now,” said Bloom. “I want to say, being new to the organization, I had not known Ron prior to this, and was so impressed with the way he carried himself throughout the process, the baseball conversations we had.
“And it’s also worth noting that, during the process, I had a lot of people that I know in baseball unsolicited reach out to me about Ron, and it really painted a picture that squared with what I saw during the interview process of a great person and a great baseball person who is extremely well-respected by everybody in the game and certainly by the people in our clubhouse, so we’re very happy to have Ron leading us right now.”
After Cora's exit and Monday's trade that saw Mookie Betts and David Price head to the Dodgers, having Roenicke come on as manager is perhaps just the type of stability the Red Sox need.
“He's awesome,” said Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. “He knows the game incredibly well. I think it will be nice having a familiar face with somebody who knows the guys, who's been there, who has the experience that he has.”
Roenicke will face a challenge of getting the Red Sox back to the postseason, and it is one he will embrace, starting with Wednesday’s initial workout.
“Guys are not happy about last year,” Roenicke said. “I think that’s a good thing coming into this year. Sometimes when you win all the time, you kind of just think we’ll show up and we’ll win. These guys don’t feel that way. They know the kind of work that it’s going to take, especially this spring, to get ready for the season, and how difficult it is to win all the time. And so, they’ve got something to prove.”
For the Brewers, Roenicke posted a 342-331 record. Most notable in that tenure was Roenicke’s first season, 2011, when he finished second in National League Manager of the Year Award voting after leading the Brewers to a franchise-record 96 wins and the NL Central title.
“I think you probably learn more from the trials you go through, the challenges you go through, than when things are going well,” said Roenicke. “So I think all of that will help me, certainly, to be able to deal with things that come up with players, their concerns, and the coaching staff and their concerns. All of that definitely helps.”
Roenicke, a former outfielder, also had an eight-year playing career in the Majors with the Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Giants, Phillies and Reds.
“I was released a few times. I was sold once. I went up and down all the time,” said Roenicke. “And so all of those experiences build this idea that I have of how tough it is on these guys.”
He was the third-base coach for the 2002 World Series-champion Angels under manager Mike Scioscia, and he collected a second ring with the 2018 Red Sox. Roenicke also served as third-base coach for the Dodgers squad that lost to the Astros in the ’17 World Series, so he has plenty of experience with winning programs.
“We’re very excited to have Ron lead our group going forward,” said general manager Brian O'Halloran. “He’s been a significant contributor to the Red Sox for the last couple of years. Ron, as Chaim said, is respected throughout our organization, inside and outside the clubhouse and certainly around the game as well. I know that he’s going to be a terrific partner for Chaim and me as we go forward and he’s the right guy to lead this group of players and staff in 2020 and going forward.”
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.