Amaro Jr. relishing new role with Red Sox

March 15th, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It is a Sunday morning in early March, one of those days Ruben Amaro Jr. might have been able to sleep in a little -- at least until the sun came up -- during his previous life as general manager of the Phillies.

But Amaro has settled into the routine of his new job as first-base coach of the Red Sox. And even if it doesn't carry the same power or prestige, it is one that he loves and is determined to succeed at.

By the time he does an interview with four hours before a 1 p.m. Grapefruit League game against Orioles, Amaro has already been at the ballpark for more than three hours.

To have the rhythm of the day go as he wishes, Amaro's alarm clock goes off while it is still dark outside.

"I probably get here to the ballpark right around 5:30 in the morning and get my own personal workout in," Amaro said. "Then we start going over the schedule for the day. Sometimes we have some early work for the players. By the time it's all said and done, we're getting home around 6 o'clock or so. You're putting in a pretty good workday."

To be sure, Amaro is under less external pressure now. But the pressure he puts on himself is about the same.

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"It's nice to be able to run out on the lines and be on the dirt with the players," Amaro said. "But right now, I'm really kind of focused on trying to make our outfield the best outfield in baseball, and our guys have responded great. They've been outstanding.

"I guess stress-level-wise, there's a totally different perspective. It is a much more global perspective when you're in the front office and you kind of have to look at everything. Now, I'm really focused on one pretty important piece of the pie."

The title of first-base coach only describes one part of Amaro's job. Perhaps more important are his duties as outfield instructor, where he leads the athletic trio of Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, not to mention a respected veteran backup in Chris Young.

"He has a lot of energy," Bradley said. "He's trying to come in here and make sure he sets a routine, and we've just kind of been getting to work. He has a good approach."

Amaro also assists Brian Butterfield as baserunning coach.

As soon as his morning interview ends -- the one Amaro playfully started by making sure there would be no Phillies questions -- he heads over to Field 2 for baserunning drills.

With pitchers on the mound, baserunners try to gauge pickoff moves and steal a base. Amaro wants his baserunners to be smart and aggressive, but not reckless.

"If you don't have it, you don't have it," Amaro reminds one runner.

Amaro will offer encouragement and instruction along the way. Here are some snippets:

"Get your lead established. Go to work."  

"Mookie, your head was steady."

"That's a good lead right there, Jackie."

"Most pitchers will be quickest on the way up."

"That's a 'must go' right there."

Soon thereafter, Amaro will be carrying a bucket of baseballs to hit fungoes to his outfielders. They are fungoes that can't be taken lightly. The players expect them to be hit at the right speed and at proper angles.

"Oh, absolutely," Amaro said. "That was one of the things Mookie said. 'What kind of fungo do you got?' Interestingly, when I first got the job, I started going to a local indoor place in Philadelphia to work on my fungoes and to start throwing batting practice.

"If you haven't done fungoes and you haven't handled the bat to hit fly balls, it can be a little nervewracking. But I'm improving, getting better and better. And hopefully by the middle of Spring Training, I'll be able to get a little better at it."

It's important to remember that until this spring, Amaro hadn't worn a uniform since his playing days ended in 1998, at which point he moved right into the Phillies' front office. Amaro worked as an assistant GM under Ed Wade and then Pat Gillick until he was elevated to GM after the 2008 season.

Following an offseason of workouts, Amaro's white uniform with the No. 20 on the back looks like a comfortable fit.

"I had to do a lot of offseason work," Amaro said with a chuckle. "Coaching is a lot more physical than I guess people would imagine. It's pretty physical, and it's a daily grind, so I had to get myself pretty well prepared for it."

Amaro is enthusiastic as he provides instructions to his outfielders -- sounding comfortable for someone who had never coached.

"Field it like an infielder, nobody on, nobody out," Amaro said as he starts to go through different scenarios.

At one point, Amaro works with the cannon-armed Bradley on taking something off the throw and getting it to home plate on a perfect bounce.

"You can do that every time," Amaro said.

Soon, the drills will give way to the game, and Amaro will head to the rectangular chalk that is now his office.

By the time the three-hour and 40-minute game -- an 8-7 victory over the Orioles -- ends, Amaro's energy finally looks as if it has taken a hit. But the cycle will start all over again a day later, and Amaro will be replenished.

The point can be made that nobody in baseball has had a bigger switch in job duties from one year to the next than Amaro, and the Red Sox are impressed with the way he has handled it.

"The one thing that has been clear was his desire to get back on the field," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "For someone coming from such a high position with many different responsibilities in an organization to now be focused on one or two specific areas in outfield and baserunning, he's embraced it, he's been energetic. He's been a great communicator thus far in camp. I think it's energized him to change roles and get back on the field."

On the field, the conversations between a coach and a player are different from the ones a GM has with players. In his former role, Amaro was the boss for all things Phillies baseball. Now, he is an instructor trying to get the best out of each player.

"There's a pretty distinct separation when you're GM and when you're a coach, I think," Amaro said. "As a coach, you're supposed to be there for the players and be a liason between John and the players. I think that being on ground zero, you get much closer to them on a daily basis and you get a chance to know their personalities a little bit better and that sort of thing. Rather than getting the information thirdhand, you're getting it kind of firsthand."

Still, in the infant stages of his coaching career, Amaro has already earned respect for his approach.

"He's been in the game for a long time," Young said. "No matter where you're watching the game from, upstairs or downstairs, you're still watching the game. He notices a lot of things. Sometimes he notices different things than even guys on the field can understand, so he's trying to bring it all to the game with us, and he's been doing a great job."

Amaro appreciates the compliment from Young, and he also lights up when told that Bradley praises his energy level.

"Obviously I've never coached at the Major League level, but when you're looking at the game from 500 feet, you have a different perspective on how the game is played and what's important," Amaro said. "I take a lot from them, too. I'm learning a lot from Chris Young, for instance, and how he goes about his business. But the dialogue, I think, is mutually beneficial, and hopefully that will continue throughout the season."

For Amaro, there have been no second thoughts about trading in his office life for a Red Sox uniform.

"It's funny: My wife Jamie asks me every day, 'How do you like it? How is it going? How do you feel about it?'" Amaro said. "Honestly, from day one, when I put the uniform on, I got that old familiar feeling of being on the field again, and I've really enjoyed it. I hope I do a good job for John and the organization, and as I said, I'm humbled and blessed to get the opportunity to do it."

Could he one day go from coach to manager?

"I guess, globally, you think about things in the future from time to time," Amaro said. "The fact of the matter is, I've got to learn as a first-base coach and doing my job, so I'm pretty singular right now in making sure that I don't screw up too many times when I'm out there and try to do the best to be able to help our organization."