Baker completes coaching hires
Names Speier, Lopez to fill final vacancies on Reds staff
CINCINNATI -- The World Series is over and Dusty Baker's contractual obligation to ESPN as a baseball analyst has been completed.Baker has now fully immersed himself into his duties as Reds manager. On Tuesday, Cincinnati's coaching staff was finalized with Chris Speier named as the new bench coach and Juan Lopez as bullpen coach. Both coaches previously worked for Baker on other teams. On Oct. 18, Baker retained four holdover coaches from the staffs of previous managers Jerry Narron and Pete Mackanin. Third-base coach Mark Berry, first-base coach Billy Hatcher, hitting coach Brook Jacoby and pitching coach Dick Pole are all returning in 2008. Pole was bench coach for Baker in Chicago. Speier replaces Pat Kelly, who was re-assigned to his previous post as manager of the Reds Gulf Coast League team in Sarasota. Kelly joined the big league staff with Mackanin on July 3 after Narron and bench coach Bucky Dent were let go. "Most of the time I'll do what I feel is right. But your bench coach gives you a sounding board," Baker said. "What I like about Chris is he isn't going to be a yes man. I don't like yes men around me too much. I have trouble agreeing with myself sometimes. I want somebody that's going to give me an honest opinion and honest answers because a lot of times as manager, you're on the fence about some things." The 57-year-old Speier will also handle duties as the infield coach. A Major League infielder from 1971-89, mostly with the Giants and Expos, he was a three-time All-Star at shortstop. The Reds lacked an infield coach last season after Dent's dismissal and it was long expected the new bench coach would fill that void.
"I'm just glad to be on board," Speier said from Corona del Mar, Calif. "Number one, Dusty is a great man. One of the talents he has is winning and he wants to put a winning product on the field. He's also a very caring, giving gentleman that wants the best for everyone he comes into contact with. Bench coach will be a great fit for me. I'd like to manage somebody and this is a step in the right direction."Baker and Speier played on opposing clubs through most of the 1970s and 80s and weren't on the same side until 1988, when Speier was a role player in San Francisco while Baker coached on Roger Craig's staff. "I always admired the way he played, how he hustled and how he was smart and always into the game," Baker said on a conference call with reporters. "I thought he was an excellent, excellent infield guy. Like I told him, he's the second-best infield instructor, approaching the best, I've seen. We both tutored under Bob Lillis, who I always felt was the best." Immediately after his playing career ended, Speier started coaching as a roving Minor League instructor with the Giants. He moved to big league coaching with the Diamondbacks from 1996-99, the Brewers in 2000 and back with Arizona for its World Series championship season in 2001. After he was bench coach for Oakland in 2004, he was third-base/infield coach for Baker in Chicago. Speier's son, Justin, is a reliever for the Angels. Cincinnati has several young infielders that could benefit from Speier's addition, including third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. This season, Encarnacion elevated his defensive game after a 25-error 2006 season. "I saw big improvement in Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot and the different young players that were on the Cubs," Baker said. "Chris is a good baseball man. He's excellent with veterans. He also knows the role of being in the big leagues as a young man and some of the trials and tribulations young players have." Speier, who took the 2007 season off to spend time with his family, only knows the Reds players he'll be working with from afar. "As an opposing coach, you try to look at their strengths and weaknesses," Speier said. "I have seen growth in Encarnacion. There isn't anyone out there that can't improve."
Lopez, who replaced longtime coach Tom Hume, was the Cubs' bullpen coach for Baker from 2003-06. He spent 13 years coaching in the Giants organization, including seven at the big league level from 1996-2002 in San Francisco with Baker.Baker was named Reds manager on Oct. 14, but fulfilled his duties for ESPN during the postseason first. After the Red Sox completed a sweep of the Rockies on Sunday, he returned home to California and found a package from general manager Wayne Krivsky waiting for him containing information about the organization and its personnel. Next on the list is for Baker to get to know his team. He planned on calling the medical staff and his club's top players. He'll also confer with Krivsky over pending decisions. Four players -- Adam Dunn, Eddie Guardado, Scott Hatteberg and Javier Valentin -- have 2008 club options pending. Dunn's $13 million option must be exercised by Sunday. "Quite frankly, some of the names I don't know or know much about them," Baker said. "We're going to talk about what we need. I have to go over stats, go over who's been healthy and who's been injured and try to figure out why. I'll just dissect the team the best I can prior to getting to the Winter Meetings, which is a month away." Baker also downplayed a report out of Chicago last week that he was recruiting Cubs pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood to join the Reds. Wood became a free agent Monday and Prior is expected to become one if he isn't offered arbitration by Chicago. Baker managed both right-handed pitchers. "I talked to Mark, but we weren't talking about baseball," Baker said. "We were talking about the state of his house and his family because he's in San Diego [near the wildfires]. I didn't talk to Kerry directly. He e-mailed and said congratulations. I responded back to say, 'Thank you, and see you down the line.' That was basically it." Roster moves: The Reds announced that pitcher Tom Shearn and catcher Alvin Colina cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Louisville. Shearn was 3-0 with a 4.96 ERA in seven games, including six starts with Cincinnati as a 30-year-old rookie. He spent most of 2007 at Louisville. Colina was claimed off waivers from the Rockies' Triple-A club in September.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.