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Friday, November 2, 2012

Cards make coaching moves

Cards make coaching moves

The Cardinals have promoted Memphis pitching coach Blaise Ilsley to manager Mike Matheny’s staff as bullpen coach, the Post-Dispatch has learned.
The club offered no comment on coaching matters Friday in the wake of hitting coach Mark McGwire’s decision to accept the same position with the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the Cardinals are expected to confirm Ilsley’s promotion on Monday, when they may also announce assistant hitting coach John Mabry’s promotion as McGwire’s replacement.
Ilsley, 49, becomes the Cardinals’ fourth bullpen coach in as many years, succeeding Dyar Miller, the only member of Matheny’s staff not offered a contract following the club’s ouster from the National League championship series.
Mabry, 42, became the final member of Matheny’s inaugural staff when he took over Mike Aldrete’s role as assistant hitting coach after the club promoted Aldrete to bench coach.
Amid Friday’s coaching swirl the Cardinals tendered a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer to their own free agent pitcher, Kyle Lohse. The bid – considered a formality to arguably the market’s second-most compelling starter – assures the Cardinals will receive draft compensation from the team that signs Lohse, who has seven days to accept or reject the offer. If Lohse accepts, the Cardinals would owe him $13.3 million for 2013. However, Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, hasn’t prepared an elaborate presentation for his client merely to take a qualifying bid.
After constructing a 16-3 record and 2.83 ERA this season, Lohse will likely command a guaranteed four-year bid approaching a $15 million average annual value.
The Cardinals made no such offer to their other free agent, first baseman Lance Berkman.
After serving three tours with the Cardinals as a player, Mabry worked closely with his former teammate McGwire and, according to the team’s hitters, developed an effective professional relationship. Mabry batted .263 with 96 home runs and 446 RBI within a 14-year career and would become the Cardinals’ third hitting coach in the last five seasons.
The club intends to promote its next assistant hitting coach from within the system, according to a source familiar with the matter, leaving Aldrete as the only coach who joined the major-league staff without a previous tie to the organization as a player or minor-league coach or manager.
The Cardinals are also expected to announce Chris Maloney’s return as first-base coach.
Ilsley spent the past five seasons as pitching coach for the Cardinals’ Class AAA affiliate and is very familiar with the parent club’s bullpen as well as starters Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn. Ilsley’s work with top pitching prospect Shelby Miller is considered pivotal in turning righthander Shelby Miller’s disastrous first half in the Pacific Coast League into a late launching pad for his September promotion to St. Louis, where Miller impressed in a limited relief role.
During Ilsley’s tenure at Memphis the Redbirds three times led the Pacific Coast League in earned run average and captured the league title in a fourth season.
Matheny moved quickly to firm his coaching staff after deciding not to retain Miller and after learning of McGwire’s desire to work closer to his Southern California home.
The past three seasons have seen Marty Mason, current pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and Miller serve as bullpen coach. Ilsley’s promotion also squares with general manager John Mozeliak’s stated preference to promote from within an increasingly respected player development system, something that only infrequently occurred during Tony La Russa’s term as manager. La Russa agreed minor-league managers and coaches should have greater opportunity for upward mobility but remained loyal to a successful, veteran staff.
McGwire’s departure leaves third-base coach Jose Oquendo, Lilliquist and bench coach Mike Aldrete as the only holdovers from La Russa’s regime. Lilliquist and Aldrete serve Matheny in different roles.
Ilsley’s promotion is part of an expected renovation of the player development system’s pitching hierarchy. Palm Beach (High A) pitching coach Dennis Martinez and Johnson City (Rookie) pitching coach Doug White will not return to the organization. Martinez, who spent six seasons in the Cardinals’ player development system, will coach the Nicaraguan entry in next year’s World Baseball Classic. He also runs a baseball academy..

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