Reds tab Price to be their new manager
Cincinnati turns to pitching coach who has led staff to success over past four years
CINCINNATI -- Reds general manager Walt Jocketty made a lengthy list of potential candidates to replace Dusty Baker as manager and a shorter list of those he considered to interview.
Both were quickly tossed aside once Jocketty and chief executive officer Bob Castellini interviewed Bryan Price.
Hence, the Reds moved quickly to promote Price from pitching coach to manager. The club felt Price not only met desired qualifications of leadership, personality, organizational skills and accountability -- he exceeded them.
"I think everyone in the room that day was as convinced as Bob and I were in the first meeting that he was certainly the guy that stands out," Jocketty said. "Once we had the meeting with Bryan, we felt there was no reason to go any further. He convinced us this was the right time and right place for him to lead this club."
Jocketty and Castellini first met with Price in Arizona on Oct. 12, and there was a second meeting with members of the front office last Wednesday. During a final meeting Saturday, Jocketty offered Price the job and a three-year contract to become the 61st manager in Reds history.
"Bryan is exceptional, and we've been with him long enough to know how exceptional he is," Castellini said. "And he also can communicate very, very well, and he knows baseball very well and he loves the game and he loves the Reds. And if we hadn't kept him here, he would have gone elsewhere, I'm sure."
Price, 51, was introduced Tuesday during a news conference at Great American Ball Park. He was Cincinnati's pitching coach for the past four seasons under Baker, who was relieved of his duties Oct. 3 following his team's defeat to the Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game.
This is the first managerial job at any level for Price, who interviewed for the Marlins' managerial vacancy last winter. That experience gave him the ambition to challenge himself further. He was expected to be an attractive managerial option for other clubs in the near future.
"It's been a heck of a ride to this point; that's for sure," Price said. "I know with this job comes an awful lot of accountability and responsibility. One thing I'd really like to accomplish is to try to make sure everybody here in the Reds organization feels that these are some of the best years that they've spent working in the Reds organization. I just hope to cultivate an even stronger sense of unity here in an organization that's already extremely united."
Before joining Cincinnati, Price spent 10 seasons as a Major League pitching coach with the Mariners (2000-05) and the D-backs (2006-09).
Price was one of two internal candidates for the job publicly named by Jocketty. The only other known candidate was Jim Riggleman, who has managed the Padres, Cubs, Mariners and Nationals.
"To be honest with you, I was convinced that Bryan was our guy just because of our past association I've had with him and just how he addressed everything that we talked about," Jocketty said. "I think to bring other people in just for the process of going through interview, to me, I wouldn't want that. … I didn't want to get people's hopes up."
The Reds received permission from Commissioner Bud Selig to hire Price just before the World Series. Selig also allowed the club to not adhere to diversity interview rules because it was promoting from within.
As for the rest of the coaching staff, assignments were not revealed Tuesday. Jocketty and Price will discuss their options in the coming days. Both expected there to be some holdovers from the previous staff.
"I'll have some recommendations; he'll have recommendations," Jocketty said. "We'll work together on selecting a staff and try to put together the very best staff that we can."
Price was quick to mention and praise his predecessor in Baker, who managed the Reds the previous six seasons.
"I had the good fortune of spending four years with Dusty as his pitching coach with the Reds," Price said. "He became a very good friend, a confidant, and I learned a lot from him. It's not easy to initially make this transition, but I know these things happen, and I'm fortunate to have spent four years with him as a good friend."
Under Price, the Reds' pitching staff had the fourth-best ERA in the Major Leagues this season and the most strikeouts in the NL. The 2012 pitching staff was one of the most successful groups in franchise history, ranking third in the league in team ERA. All five members of the rotation started at least 30 games, with four reaching 200 innings.
Among Price's accomplishments have been developing Johnny Cueto from raw starter into an ace, and Price also had success working with starters Mat Latos and Mike Leake while helping build a core of strong relievers that includes Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon and Manny Parra. Aroldis Chapman went from raw Cuban defector into a proven closer for the Reds in the past four seasons under Price.
The subject of player accountability came up often during Price's press conference. His pitchers -- from Homer Bailey to Latos -- have praised him for setting high expectations and handling them when those expectations are not met. Price expected no problems creating an atmosphere of accountability for an entire club.
"I think we have a lot of players with that type of character already, or you wouldn't see a team that is pushing for division titles and things of that nature," Price said. "However, to be able to bring the full 25-man roster and coaching staff together and that common goal is important. It also means the players holding themselves accountable for things, the coaching staff, etc. But we have to be unified in that one goal. The most important thing is to play the best baseball that we're capable of playing on a daily basis with energy, and when we see those people that are surrounding the ballpark at the end of the day when we're leaving that are ensconced in Cincinnati Reds gear, we have to feel that we've given them their money's worth on the field -- won or lost."
A former pitcher for the University of California at Berkeley, Price never played in the Majors. He had a 31-19 record and 3.74 ERA in 90 Minor League games in the Angels and Mariners organizations. His career was shortened by left elbow surgery.
Going from pitching coach to manager has become something of a rarity in recent years. Only two other current managers, San Diego's Bud Black and Boston's John Farrell, were previously pitching coaches. There have been several other former pitchers or pitching coaches to manage over the years with mixed success. Bob Lemon with the Yankees, Tommy Lasorda (Dodgers), Roger Craig (Giants) and Dallas Green (Phillies) reached the World Series, while Joe Kerrigan (Red Sox), Ray Miller (Twins, Orioles) and Marcel Lachemann (Angels) had unsuccessful tenures.
Price did not believe lacking a background on the offensive side of the game would hinder his ability to lead.
"I've always reminded Joey [Votto] to line up his knuckles before he hit," Price joked. "That might be something I pass on to everyone. I'm not here to teach hitting and, necessarily, offense. What I am here to do is put people in position that are going to continue to enhance our ability to thrive offensively and then be able to utilize the athletes we have on the field."
Becoming a manager without previous experience is not a new phenomenon. Two years ago, Mike Matheny replaced legend Tony La Russa with the Cardinals, and this season, rookies Walt Weiss skippered the Rockies and Mike Redmond took over for the Marlins. While Colorado and Miami finished below .500, Matheny will be managing against Farrell's Red Sox in the World Series that opens Wednesday.
"That's why I think the importance of a coaching staff will be so important," Price said of his lack of managerial experience. "I have to be able to hand out responsibilities. I can't do all of this. I'm not qualified to teach guys how to hit. But I am qualified to lead and make decisions. Those are things I think I established as a pitching coach, and certainly it will be in a much broader way as a manager."
Price is inheriting a Reds team from Baker that reached the playoffs while winning 90 or more games in three of the past four seasons. But the club was unable to win a playoff series in any of those postseason appearances, and the front office will expect Price to take Cincinnati over the hump to greater success.
"We had the person we felt could take this team deep into the postseason and then some," Castellini said. "As a result, we're here today, and we're very pleased to be here."