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Fate of Blue Jays' coaches on hold until new manager hired

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The Canadian Press
9/22/2010 9:23:39 PM
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TORONTO -- Lost amid growing discussion over who will follow Cito Gaston as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays is that the team's coaching staff, one of its best in years, is stuck in limbo during the search for a replacement.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos said via email Wednesday that the fate of the six coaches won't be decided until he hires a new manager, and that their future would then be decided "collectively."

New managers are generally allowed to bring in at least couple of people they trust to work alongside them, so there are sure to be some changes from this year's group.

With each of their contracts set to expire, the uncertainty means hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, pitching coach Bruce Walton, bench coach Nick Leyva, third base coach Brian Butterfield, first base coach Omar Malave and bullpen coach Rick Langford must start investigating their options soon or risk being left off the carousel, despite their fine work this year.

"It's different, but we understand the nature of it all," said Butterfield, who's been with the Blue Jays since 2002. "Whether it's a change in the managerial position for one reason, or another, it doesn't matter, we're all in the last years of our contracts.

"The one thing I've learned is to not worry too much about tomorrow -- I've always tried to let my body of work be my agent. I do know this, I want to be a Blue Jay."

Butterfield is expected to get an interview for the manager's job -- he said he didn't want to address the issue until after the season -- as will Leyva, who said he's interested in the position.

"My No. 1 goal is I'd like to replace Cito, and Alex knows that and I will get an interview when it's time to come around to us, I've been told that," said Leyva. "Big shoes to fill. I feel my strengths are knowing this ball club."

On the other hand Murphy said he'd like to manage one day, but decided not to throw his hat in the ring this time.

"I'm sure I can do it," he said. "I just made up my mind I'm not going to (apply), that's all."

Whether or not any of the coaches come back will depend on their level of history with the new manager, who the new manager wants to bring in, and who Anthopoulos insists on keeping.

One veteran player said losing Butterfield, Murphy and Walton could significantly hurt the club, and that continuity from one staff to the next was desirable, particularly with how well the current group worked after last year's toxic mix.

The coaches also feel retaining some people with a deep knowledge of the club makes sense.

"If you bring in a new group, you don't really know the players like you should," said Murphy. "There should be several coaches held over from every staff when you do that."

Added Butterfield: "It's definitely an advantage. Throughout time in this game you might figure out that you may make an early assessment on a player when you haven't seen him a lot, and five months later that assessment changes. Anybody that is new coming in, having that person there that knows people in the organization, knows the players and is a good evaluator would be very helpful."

Anthopoulos says there is no timeline on his search, but he'd likely look to have someone in place before the real business of the off-season gets going after the World Series. The Blue Jays are working off a lengthy list after combing through potential candidates at all levels of every big-league club.

There could be 10 or more managerial openings by the time the season ends, so the coaches may not have time to wait out Anthopoulos's process.

"I've got about 10 days to think about that," said Murphy. "It's probably soon to happen but with all the managers changing, you can't just sit around and wait to see what happens here. If nothing happens for you here, then you're really caught.

"So it's a tough situation and more than likely I probably won't just wait to see what happens."

Butterfield will have options.

He's been mentioned as a candidate for the managerial vacancy in Seattle, and could also join the staff of longtime friend Buck Showalter in Baltimore.

Walton has also impressed in his first season as pitching coach, guiding a young staff through a better-than-expected season without any major injuries.

Leyva, a former Philadelphia Phillies manager who worked on Gaston's staffs during both his stints in Toronto, is getting ready to dust off his resume in case he doesn't end up back with the Blue Jays.

"To feel comfortable in what he wants taught and what he's going to want philosophy-wise, a lot of times (a new manager) needs his own guys," said Leyva. "I would love to stay here and help the other manager, I feel I have strengths that I could do that, but he may already have someone in mind for what I do.

"As long as you do your job in this game and your name is clean, you're going to have an opportunity to go elsewhere."

Alex Anthopoulos (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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