(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien.)
So this isn’t exactly the warmest and fuzziest place to talk about the topic I want to bring up today – Terry Pendleton’s job change – especially given the tone on the blog of late inspired by a certain frequent visitor in recent days.
Nevertheless, (Jack Wilkinson, are you reading?) I got a chance to talk to Pendleton last week at the rookie camp, and some of you have asked how he’s reacted to the change in his role, from hitting coach to first base coach.
We first got a clue in October, when he agreed to stay and take the new job as first base coach for Glenn Hubbard, who was not retained. I’m sure some of that has to do with the fact that this is where Pendleton makes his home, this is where he’s raising his kids, and this organization is still home. But that also said to me, this isn’t a guy full of resentment either.
Can’t remember the last Braves hitting coach to lose his job and stick around – not sure if any were given the choice, but you get my drift – Clarence Jones, Merv Rettenmund come to mind.
(Don Baylor left to take the job as Cubs manager, obviously his choice.)
Pride always comes into play, especially in a baseball clubhouse, especially in such a public position. Still, everything I see and hear from Pendleton tells me he is taking this all in stride… with his usual honesty.
“It was not something that I would say I welcomed, but it’s something that I’m up for,” Pendleton said. “Change is good. Some people would think it’s not, but sometimes change is good.”
What is in it for him, is something GM Frank Wren pointed out back in October – this will help give Pendleton a more well-rounded resume when he tries to become a manager some day. And Pendleton does want to manage. “I would like the opportunity, yes,” he said.
Pendleton applied for manager’s positions in Philadelphia (Charlie Manuel got the job in 2005), Tampa Bay (Joe Maddon got the job in 2006) and in Washington (Manny Acta got the job in 2007).
But here’s the part of his old job he will miss:
“Being in the cage with all the guys, like in spring training every morning talking baseball, talking hitting, laughing and clowning,” Pendleton said. “Not that some of that won’t happen in spring training but just being in the cage with all the hitters and having them all together will be a little different for me….I love to talk about hitting. I love to listen to the guys talk about it. I’ll still be able to hear some of that, but it won’t be a regular thing for me.”
I figured one plus to all this might be OK, well at least Pendleton doesn’t have to deal with the pressure that comes with being a hitting coach anymore. He knew it was his behind, when Nate McLouth struggled, Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson, Andruw Jones or fill-in-the-blank.
But he wasn’t biting on that.
“I never felt that, to be honest with you,” Pendleton said, when asked about the daily pressures. “When we didn’t hit, I understand the game of baseball, I understand it happens. I understood when I took the job if we didn’t hit it was going to be on me. I knew that already. Then when we did, it was them. So those things I understood. I never felt like it was pressure, I felt bad for our kids because I knew when we struggled as a team, they were off trying to do way too much and trying to pick up the slack for the other guys. Just with talking to them, and trying to get them to just relax, just do what they’re capable of doing. I’ve been in that position and I know it’s easy to say but it’s difficult to do because of the competitiveness that’s in you.”
The way Wren put it in October: “I just think it was probably time for a new voice.” After nine years, maybe it was. I’m just giving credit here for way that TP is handling this move.
Exhibit A: when I asked him why he didn’t leave.
“People who know me know that I attempt to do things for the ball club; it’s not about me,” Pendleton said. “The bottom line with me is I want to win. If we feel like we’ve got a better opportunity for somebody else to be the hitting coach, and for me to be in another position for us to win, then let’s go get it done.”
Leftovers from rookie camp:
Some tidbits about the first annual Braves Rookie Development Week last week when 26 of the Braves top prospects were invited to Turner Field to acclimate to big league life.
Wren said the first team he knew to do it was the Cleveland Indians, who’ve been doing it for 20 years. They used to go as long as a month, with a couple weeks in Cleveland and a couple weeks in Arizona at their spring training facility. The Braves started with a week and will see where they go from here. There might be fewer players invited going forward but they wanted to start broad.
A quote I liked but didn’t get a chance to use when I asked Wren about shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ arm and how his first basemen liked catching his throws. (He’s been clocked at 98 mph off the mound.)
“(Tyler) Pastornicky was warming up with him out there and he says ‘I don’t think I got the right guy on a cold day to warm up with,’” Wren said.
I asked top pitching prospect Julio Teheran who his favorite pitchers to watch growing up were. His answer: Curt Schilling and John Smoltz. Now his favorite? Felix Hernandez.
Cox to be honored by Braves 400 club
The Braves 400 Fan Club is honoring Bobby Cox at its annual winter banquet to be held Saturday Feb. 5 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Those expected to speak include: John Smoltz, former major league umpire Bruce Froemming, Phil Niekro, Leo Mazzone, Darrel Chaney, and Gene Garber. Greg Maddux and Dale Murphy aren’t scheduled to attend but will be giving video tributes.
Pete Van Wieren
and former coach Pat Corrales plan to attend. Broadcaster Jim Powell is emceeing.
The event will be held in the Georgia Ballroom of the World Congress Center. A reception, silent auction and raffle begins at 5 p.m. The awards dinner and program starts at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets, which include dinner, are $95. They can only be bought in advance, and the deadline is Monday, Jan. 31. Go to www.braves400.org to make a reservation or mail a check to Braves 400 Club, PO Box 7689, Atlanta, GA 30309.
Braves players and staff are out mingling with the people this week in the second year since the return of the Braves caravan. Stops this week include Birmingham on Wednesday, Peachtree City on Thursday, Athens on Friday and Montgomery and Auburn, Ala. on Saturday. For the complete schedule, go to braves.com/caravan.
Camp Roger, more officially known as the Braves voluntary two-week pre-spring training pitching camp, will begin on Monday at Turner Field. It will go for two weeks leading up to the time when pitchers and catchers report to spring training on Monday, Feb. 14. (Happy Valentine’s Day to all the wives and girlfriends who have to say goodbye that day!)
OK, that’s a wrap.