Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Yankees’ coaching staff announced; Pena, Thomson swap roles

The New York Yankees finalized their 2015 coaching staff with a formal announcement Monday. The club officially added three new members to the staff and made an intriguing transition of roles for two returning coaches.

The Yankees hired Jeff Pentland to be their hitting coach and Alan Cockrell to be his assistant, replacing Kevin Long who was fired over three months ago. I commented fully on the hitting coach situation Monday.

The Yanks also hired Joe Espada to be the team's third base and infield coach. He replaces Mick Kelleher who served as the Yankees infield and first base coach for several seasons. Espada recently held the third base coaching position with the Miami Marlins from 2010-13. He was a member of the Yankees scouting crew last season.

In order to accommodate Espada's place along the third base line, the Yankees moved Rob Thomson to bench coach and Tony Pena is sliding over to coach first base. Thomson was manager Joe Girardi's bench coach in 2008 and Pena was the Yankees' first base coach from 2005-08 so there is some familiarity in the roles.

Larry Rothschild and Gary Tuck remain the pitching coach and bullpen coach respectively.

Thomson replacing Pena is an interesting move in my opinion. One might see Pena's move from bench coach to first base coach as a demotion, especially when replaced by someone who was not all that effective in their previous role like Thomson.

Thomson on plenty of occasions drew the ire of fans for bad sends of runners to home as well as for not sending runners at other times. In all, 21 Yankee runners were nailed at home plate last season. When the season ended I thoroughly expected Thomson to lose his job, but instead he earned a promotion.

It remains to be seen if Thomson's baseball mind works better with time to deliberate than it did last season on split second decisions with runners heading for home. The Yankees must believe that to be the case.

It's a possibility that the Yankees just want to switch things up and give Girardi a new right hand man to bounce ideas off after six years with Pena at his side. Conspiracy theorists might ask if there is a riff of some sort between Girardi and Pena, or it’s conceivable that they were not seeing eye to eye on strategy last season. Thomson has served 26 years in the organization, so he's certainly respected by the front office and Girardi.

We might never know if there is something non-baseball related to the move, as it can be expected that all parties will toe the company line when questioned. What is certain is that along with a slew of roster changes this offseason, the coaching staff sees five of seven members with new responsibilities. That’s what two consecutive seasons missing the playoffs brings.

Let me know your thoughts about the coaching staff changes in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.