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Bulls staff gets pink slips
By MARC TOPKIN and EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published September 10, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - A disappointing and controversy-marred season cost Triple-A manager John Tamargo, coaches Joe Coleman and Richie Hebner and trainer Tom Tisdale their jobs.
The Devil Rays said Saturday none of the four would have his contract renewed, part of a housecleaning that included minor-league pitching coordinator Jerry Nyman and three veteran scouts.
Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said the unusually high number of disciplinary incidents was "definitely a contributing factor" but not "the overriding factor" in the decisions.
Instead, he spoke in broader terms that suggested the veteran coaching staff was not a good fit with the organization's plans to develop continuity in how the game is taught throughout the minors and formulating a "Rays way" of doing things.
"We do want consistency throughout and the various groups working in harmony," Friedman said.
Farm director Mitch Lukevics made similar comments: "We need more cohesiveness, more harmony in our player development ranks."
Coleman's dismissal - which he said "felt like a kick in the gut" - was the most surprising as he had been with the organization for seven seasons and received high praise from many of the pitchers who came through the system.
"I'm disappointed because I had the conversation with Andrew earlier this season that I wanted to be a part of this when things came around, and then after being there seven years they tell you they don't want you around anymore," said Coleman, 59.
"Hopefully us four weren't blamed for what happened because a bunch of things that happened we couldn't control. If that's the reason, their thinking caps aren't on the right side of their heads. But if they want to go in a different direction and get some new people, maybe some younger people, in there, I understand it."
Several Rays pitchers were surprised at the news. "He really helped me get here this year," left-hander Jon Switzer said.
"He was a real differencemaker for me."
Friedman, however, said: "It's the way we're going to create things with a new pitching coordinator and pitching coach and how things flow up to the major leagues and back down, and the philosophy."
Tamargo, 54, was suspended once himself while leading the team to a 64-78 mark in his first season after replacing Bill Evers. "We had problems as everybody knows. It just didn't work out for us," said Tamargo, a Tampa native. "I didn't expect it at first, but at the end of the season I kind of knew something was going on."
Hebner, 58, was in his fifth season with the Rays.
SCOUTING IT OUT: The Rays also said they will not renew the contracts of veteran major-league scouts Bart Johnson, Roger Jongewaard and Stan Williams, who handled advance work on opponents.
Friedman said the changes were made after an evaluation of staff and structure, with plans to increase scouting of the minor leagues.
The Rays use the computerized BATS system for some of their advance work, but they plan to replace Williams and continue using an advance scout.
MINOR MATTERS: Class A Visalia lost 3-2 to San Jose (Giants) in Saturday's opener of the best-of-five California League North Division championship. The Oaks advanced from the first round by beating Stockton 8-4 late Friday, rallying for six runs in the eighth inning and getting strong relief work from Evan Meek, the pitcher acquired from San Diego in the Russell Branyan trade. ... Double-A Montgomery played at home Saturday night trying to eliminate Jacksonville (Dodgers) in Southern League best-of-five play. The Biscuits started Mitch Talbot, the right-hander acquired with Ben Zobrist from Houston.
MISCELLANY: Jorge Cantu figurines were given out Saturday, but Cantu was on the bench, the result of manager Joe Maddon's decision to rest him. ... The Rays went into play Saturday with 11 of their previous 12 games decided by three runs or fewer and were 4-7. ... The Rays honored several former Negro Leagues players before the game and also honored state firefighter of the year William Riley, who is from Hillsborough County.