Reds name Turner Ward hitting coach
Former Dodgers, D-backs appointment joins Johnson in 'first-class coaching staff'
CINCINNATI -- The Reds aimed their offseason goals at being aggressive and willing to spend to add starting pitching. Perhaps they've tipped their hand at just how bold they might be as they also assemble new manager David Bell's coaching staff.
In a second coaching coup in as many weeks, Cincinnati hired Turner Ward away from the two-time defending National League champion Dodgers to be its hitting coach. This comes after the club plucked highly touted pitching coach Derek Johnson away from another playoff team in the Brewers last week.
"We went into this offseason committed to putting new leadership in place in the clubhouse," Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. "We were interested to see where that would take us. We thought that some new voices in the clubhouse and a variety of perspectives from other organizations would be a good thing. We were committed to putting together a first-class coaching staff, but these things are hard to control. A lot of them come up quickly, and you have to be in position to react.
"Thankfully, David has a lot of good contacts in this game. Those have afforded us opportunities to speak to guys that we might not have otherwise. But we were prepared to act quickly. You have to be in this game, because hiring coaches is very competitive. We think it's really important to give our players a chance to succeed. So we did what we could so far. We saw the right fit arise, and we moved quickly and boldly to put it into place."
Terms of the contracts for Ward and Johnson were not revealed, but it stands to reason that they were probably significant.
"In both cases, they were very comfortable with what we had to offer as an organization," Williams said.
Ward, 53, spent three seasons in Los Angeles as hitting coach with the team reaching the postseason each year. In 2018, the Dodgers led the NL in runs, home runs and slugging percentage. They established a club record with 235 homers, including seven players with at least 20 home runs -- the most in club history and the most ever by an NL club.
From 2013-15, Ward was on the D-backs' staff -- first as the assistant hitting coach for one season and the other two as the hitting coach. He will be replacing Don Long as the Reds' hitting coach after five seasons.
Like Johnson, Ward is stepping into a different situation, as the Reds have finished last in the NL Central each of the past four seasons while losing 94 or more games. However, the offense is considered a strength of the Reds going into 2019, with Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett and others established in the lineup. The Reds were fourth in batting (tied) and on-base percentage among NL clubs last season.
"Seeing that guys can have different approaches and -- of course -- watching Votto and the different things he can do and watching how he competes against different types of pitchers, that's the kind of stuff that I like because he's doing it more in a group setting, which is what in L.A., I felt like we did and also in Arizona," Ward said. "There's a unity part of it that I love to be a part of and to help, in a sense, bringing out what these guys already do well and just talking about deficiencies."
Once again, it was a deal that came together quickly, with Ward receiving a call from the Reds on Saturday night.
"In a time of 24 hours talking to David, we kind of settled everything and got things agreed upon. I said to David, 'What are you selling?' In that division with what they're trying to do, I can see it," Ward said. "It really interests me in the sense of -- I don't want to say building something, they've got a really good offense. I've been impressed with their offense.
"I would also add the logistics of being closer to home [in Alabama]. Family is very important to me, and it made it hard to be out in L.A. Winning is important and I want to win. I see this organization as wanting to and willing to and making a point to put that kind of culture and atmosphere on the field."
Bell and Ward have known each other for a long time but never worked together. They spent all of Sunday speaking on the phone about Bell's vision for the team and Ward's ideas as a hitting coach.
"I know about his knowledge, his reputation throughout the game is off the charts," Bell said. "What came through loud and clear is that he's in this for the right reasons -- he's in it to support the players, he's in it to help them. He's in it to do everything he can to be part of a team. He sees this as a great challenge of building something special. All those things, outside his background and knowledge of hitting, those things were just so important for me to hear, just as they were with Derek. That's just another great step in building a really great staff."