The A’s have a new bench coach in Mark Kotsay, and “new’’ is the key word.
He’s never been a bench coach, and Kotsay and manager Bob Melvin have never worked together.
If that wasn’t newness enough, Kotsay is the third bench coach for the A’s in three years, and the first of those who has never been a bench coach before, so the learning curve will be steep.
Although they’ve known each other casually, Kotsay and Melvin have never been on the same team. But after the two met a week ago Tuesday for a Jack London Square lunch, it was clear to both that this was worth exploring.
“We have mutual friends in the game, and it was communicated that Bob and I would be a good match,’’ Kotsay said in a conference call Thursday. “I’ve competed against him as he managed in Seattle, Arizona and Oakland. I know how respected he is.
“When we got together for lunch, it was evident we have very similar philosophies and approaches.’’
For Melvin, working with Kotsay is an unknown. But with Kotsay having been the A’s center fielder from 2004-2007, the new bench coach has deep roots in the organization. Melvin said because of that he and the front office brain trust of Billy Beane and David Forst have been targeting bringing Kotsay aboard for a while.
“We’ve felt it would be prudent to get him here when we could,’’ Melvin said of Kotsay, who retired as a player following the 2013 season after 17 years in the big leagues. “I’ve known him from the outside some, and I’ve seen the impact he’d had on the teams he’d been with.’’
Kotsay was the hitting coach in San Diego in 2014, which was convenient, because that’s where he and his family live. For the A’s to get permission to talk to him, the Padres insisted that the move not be lateral. The only open job on the staff was the first base coach, so that wasn’t a fit. To get the chance to even interview Kotsay, the A’s had to be prepared to offer him the more prestigious role of bench coach.
And that meant telling the 2015 bench coach, Mike Aldrete, that he’d been moved to the first base slot. Aldrete, a Northern California native, came to the A’s from a similar job in St. Louis last year to be closer to his roots in Carmel after the 2014 bench coach, Chip Hale, was hired to manage the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It was hard to move Aldo,’’ Melvin said. “It was a difficult conversation to have. I don’t know that it works against him, but he’s done everything you can do on a big league staff and that gave us the opportunity to move him into another role.
“It was difficult. We don’t view this as a demotion. We just want as many good people in the organization as we can get, and to get Kotsay, it had to be as bench coach. This is not a demotion for Aldo. We still hold him in high regard.’’
Kotsay said that it was “great to be back in Oakland.’’
“Obviously the time I spent there from 2004-07 as I reflect back on it, there were nothing but positives,’’ he said. “I developed some great relationships that have stayed strong. It’s very exciting to come back.’’
He’s coming back into a job he’s never held, and he said he is anxious to learn.
“I have no experience in this role, so Bob can mold me in how he wants things done,’’ Kotsay said. “I’m looking forward to being a sponge and soaking things up. I understand the importance of relationships with the players and how the A’s approach the game. That is a tribute to Bob Melvin.’’
Kotsay was known as a clubhouse leader in his time, and at 39 isn’t all that much older than some of those who will be playing. There is a thought that he can help with the tenor of the clubhouse, where things were rocky for much of a last-place season in 2015.
“I’m looking forward to helping whatever facets this club can improve in, helping Bob and being and extension,’’ Melvin said. “The bench coach has to be an extension of the manager, and the manager sets the tone. I hope I can share my experience as a player, and the importance of players buying in.’’
Asked if managing was in his future, Kotsay admitted to the possibility, but “for now I just want to be the best bench coach I can be. If through that success if the managing opportunities exist, that would be a blessing.’’
With the hire of Kotsay, the A’s have finalized their coaching roster. Curt Young returns as pitching coach, Darren Bush as hitting coach, Ron Washington as third base and infield coach, Aldrete as the first base and outfield coach, Scott Emerson as bullpen coach and Marcus Jensen as assistant hitting coach and catching coach.