Padres finalize staff; Melvin touts 'balance'

Christenson, Brdar hires official; Price named senior advisor

December 20th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Two former managers. A 27-year-old hitting coach. Holdovers from San Diego. New arrivals from Oakland. A few recent big leaguers. A few data-driven minds without big league experience at all.

No, the coaches on Bob Melvin's staff in San Diego don't seem to have an archetype. That was sort of the point.

"Younger guys, veteran guys, new-school mindsets, some traditional old-school -- I think it's a great balance," Melvin said Monday. "We took our time. We wanted to get it right. At the end, I think we came up with some really good names, and some really good fits for this staff."

At long last, Melvin's staff is final. On Monday, the Padres formally announced the entirety of their big league coaching staff, including:

• Bench coach Ryan Christenson
• Hitting coach Michael Brdar
• Pitching coach Ruben Niebla
• Third-base coach Matt Williams
• First-base coach David Macias
• Bullpen coach Ben Fritz
• Catching coach Francisco Cervelli
• Bullpen catcher Herberto Andrade
• Quality control coach Ryan Flaherty
• Game planning and coaching assistant Peter Summerville

In addition to those announcements, the Padres also hired longtime coach and former Reds manager Bryan Price to serve as senior advisor to the Major League coaching staff.

Here's a rundown on the details of the Padres' latest hires:

Who's returning?

When Jayce Tingler was let go after the 2021 season, president of baseball operations A.J. Preller gave his staff permission to look for opportunities elsewhere. Preller wanted his manager to have a say in the next coaching staff, but that didn't necessarily mean a complete overhaul. Sure enough, there are three holdovers from Tingler's final season in San Diego.

Fritz returns to his role as bullpen coach. (He'd spent the final month of the season as interim pitching coach after Larry Rothschild was dismissed.) Flaherty takes over as quality control coach, with a major say in game planning alongside Summerville, who had spent the past three seasons as a bullpen catcher and a coaching assistant. Flaherty will also work closely with Brdar and the team's hitters.

The new Padres staff represents a major change from Tingler's group, but it was clearly important to Melvin and Preller to keep some of that previous group in place.

"There are some holdovers that have the continuity and the resources of knowing our guys," Melvin said. "We also have some new guys. I just think it's a really good mix."

High praise for Brdar

Perhaps the most intriguing hire on Melvin's staff was that of hitting coach Michael Brdar -- a 27-year-old formerly of the Giants organization who is viewed as an up-and-comer in the hitting community. The hire was first reported last month, but it only became official on Monday, allowing Melvin to finally address the impetus behind hiring Brdar.

"He talks a language that I don't talk, and he talks the language that younger hitters are coming up and talking now," Melvin said. "I shouldn't say that; I talk it a little bit. But not as well as he does. On the hitting end, you need to be able reach these guys and speak their language.

"I knew 20 minutes into the interview that I had a pretty good sense we were going to hire him. He blew me away."

What, specifically, is this language that Brdar speaks? Melvin noted how in tune Brdar is with data and the way it can be used to alter the approaches of hitters. But he also noted Brdar's communication skills and the way he relays that information to players in a digestible manner.

"Nowadays, you talk to a hitting coach and say: 'OK, break this guy down for me,'" Melvin said. "'OK, hits too many balls on the ground, doesn't hit spin very well.' And then he has answers as to how we can improve upon that."

Striking a 'great balance'

Both Melvin and Preller were quick to note the importance of a well-rounded staff. If there were any concerns as to how some veteran players might react to a 27-year-old data-driven hitting coach, for instance ...

"I've been a little bit more old-school in my approach to hitting, and I think there's a nice balance with that, too, with a guy like Matt Williams," Melvin said. "Matt, just look at his numbers, brings a little bit of credibility on the offensive side. We feel like we're really well balanced there."

Add Flaherty, an eight-year big leaguer, who brings a wealth of new-school knowledge, and the Padres feel as though they're attacking the hitting side from all angles, with all sorts of different voices. And that philosophy isn't limited to hitting.

"It's a blend of some experience and some some younger staff members that are anxious to get to the big league level for the first time," Preller said. "The biggest thing we're excited about is: We've just got a lot of knowledge."

Divvying up the duties

Melvin noted his desire to have coaches "doubling up" in their duties, and he emphasized the need for a versatile staff in which different coaches could fill different roles.

To that end, Preller offered a few other specifics of the way the staff will operate:

• Williams and Flaherty are expected to work with the team's infielders.

• Christenson and Macias will work with the team's outfielders and serve as the primary baserunning instructors.

• Cervelli will run the team's catchers, but Andrade will be tasked with working with backstops as well.

Price's role

Price's arrival was the only surprise hire on Monday, as the rest of the Padres' staff had been reported in advance.

Price spent five seasons as Reds manager from 2014-18, in addition to 15 years as a big league pitching coach and 11 years in the Mariners' player development system.

"He brings a lot of baseball knowledge from a lot of years," said Melvin. "He's done it all. His role will be an advisor. He'll be there for Spring Training, and during the season, he'll come and go, which works really well, which gives a little perspective."

Melvin's overall takeaway

Melvin, of course, is no stranger to coaching hires -- though he noted that, in Oakland, the process was generally to look internally. Crafting an entirely new staff was a unique challenge for Melvin. Especially, he said, considering the way the game has changed during his two decades in the manager's chair.

"This was a little bit of a different process, knowing we were going to bring guys in from the outside," Melvin said. "We wanted it to be diverse. We wanted it to be diverse in age. We wanted it to be diverse in thinking.

"The hitting end and the pitching end are probably way more technical than when I first got into this. Now, you want to hear about these guys and how they can improve, and how they're going to use all the tools and technology that are available. Both Ruben and Michael are really well-versed in that."