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Phils pitching coach Bryan Price retires

@ToddZolecki
October 19, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryan Price wanted to help the Phillies become the talk of the National League East again. But as he spent the summer away from his family in Phoenix, isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, moving only from his apartment to Citizens Bank Park and back again, he realized

PHILADELPHIA -- Bryan Price wanted to help the Phillies become the talk of the National League East again.

But as he spent the summer away from his family in Phoenix, isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, moving only from his apartment to Citizens Bank Park and back again, he realized that he no longer wants the daily grind of a big league coach. So Price, 58, called Phillies manager Joe Girardi on Sunday afternoon and told him that he planned to retire, despite two years remaining on a three-year contract.

“I just don’t have it left in me to finish that assignment, unfortunately,” Price said. “It’s just time.

“COVID has been extremely challenging for all of us. It accelerated this for me. It was a reminder of what it’s like to be away from family. The inability for them to access me because of the limitations of the world we live in was difficult. That said, it was clear to me by end of the season and the weeks I’ve been home that I’m just done full time on the field.

“I miss my family. I’ve been taking them through this since 1991. They’re great and supportive. It just doesn’t resonate with me anymore to spend this much time away from home.”

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Price’s replacement will be the Phillies’ fifth pitching coach in five seasons. He will follow Bob McClure (2014-17), Rick Kranitz (2018), Chris Young (2019) and Price (2020). Price represented a return to a traditional approach to pitching following a season with Young, whose heavy analytics mindset frustrated several Phillies pitchers. Price knew mechanics, and he worked with each pitcher’s strengths. He developed a strong rapport with his pitchers, who genuinely enjoyed working and talking with him this season.

Girardi hopes to find another version of Price in his next pitching coach.

"I’m a big believer that a guy has to be able to communicate well with the pitchers,” Girardi said. “He has to be able to mechanically help a pitcher achieve consistency, recognize quickly when something gets out of whack and help them get back on track quickly. Hitters and pitchers both get out of whack at times. You have to understand what gets guys back on track.”

He also said it should be “someone who combines analytics with pitching skill to get more out of the pitcher and apply it to what he's doing mechanically.”

Girardi said he is not sure whether the next pitching coach will come from inside or from outside the organization.

A few external names could include former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey, former Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland and former Rays, Angels and D-backs pitching coach Mike Butcher.

Dubee worked under Charlie Manuel from 2005-13. Roy Halladay called him the best pitching coach he ever had. Dubee tapped into the talents of such relievers as Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey. Each took steps forward when they joined the organization.

Harkey has a long relationship with Girardi. They played together with the Cubs in the early 1990s. Harkey was Girardi’s bullpen coach with the Yankees from 2008-13, and again in '16-17. In between, Harkey was Arizona’s pitching coach.

Eiland was Girardi’s pitching coach in New York from 2008-10. He was the Royals’ pitching coach from '12-17 -- Kansas City won the 2015 World Series with help from a strong bullpen -- and the Mets from '18-19. Butcher is highly regarded.

Bryce Harper made his feelings known in an Instagram story on Sunday night: Vanderbilt pitching coach Scott Brown, who coached big leaguers like Walker Buehler and Sonny Gray.

Internally, there is assistant pitching coach David Lundquist, bullpen coach Jim Gott and Minor League pitching development director Rafael Chaves.

The Phillies lost a good one in Price, who offered to provide the organization any insights they need on pitchers.

"We were all shocked because he fit in so well,” Girardi said. “He was great to work with -- great attitude. The pitchers loved him. He connected with them extremely well. They don't get any better than Bryan.”

The Phillies’ rotation finished third in MLB with a 6.9 WAR, behind only the Reds (8.1) and Indians (7.8). The rotation’s ERA improved from 4.64 in 2019 to 4.08. Its 3.64 xFIP ranked second behind the Indians (3.51). But the bullpen’s 7.06 ERA was the second worst in baseball in 90 years.

Price, who managed the Reds from 2014-18, said the bullpen’s performance had nothing to do with his decision.

“If we won the World Series, I don’t think my decision would have been any different,” he said. “It’s not a performance-based decision. If that was the case, I’d be leaving with my tail between my legs. And that’s not the case at all. I admired the hard work those guys put in.

“We weren’t good out of the ’pen, and that should fall on me because our guys had histories of performing well. But I’ve been around long enough to know that had this been a 162-game season, they would have put together some good stretches. Given the nature of the season, we couldn’t find a hot hand. And that led to perpetual underperformance.

“When you know it’s time to go, you go. I have no reservations.”

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .