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Another victim of the daily grind

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Larry Rothschild is gone. And pitching coaches everywhere are left to mourn his departure.

Rothschild was a rarity: a pitching coach given an opportunity to manage. None of the current 30 major-league managers worked as a pitching coach. Only Larry Dierker was a former pitcher.

How is it that pitchers make up approximately 45 percent of the players but only 3 percent of the managers?

Because there is a perception in major-league clubhouses that pitchers/pitching coaches do not understand the grind that position players endure during a 162-game season.

That theme was brought up by several Devil Rays in the wake of Rothschild's dismissal.

"Unless you've been out there facing the best day in and day out and know what it's like to struggle and know when somebody needs to hear, "Hey, it's going to be all right, just keep your head up.' Not, "You're 0-for-4, 0-for-6, you're out of there,' " designated hitter Greg Vaughn said. "I think it's tough for a guy that's never played in the big leagues, a guy that is a pitching coach, to understand what a regular goes through."

The list of recent pitching coaches as managers is not a pretty one. Phil Regan, Ray Miller and Marcel Lachemann preceded Rothschild with undistinguished tenures. You have to go back to the late 1980s with Roger Craig in San Francisco to find a pitching coach who had success.

Rothschild had no managing experience when he was hired by the Rays, but club officials wanted to take advantage of his pitching expertise with their young staff. The plan worked to a great degree the first two seasons, when pitching was the team's strength. It began to unravel for Rothschild when veteran position players Vaughn, Gerald Williams and Vinny Castilla were brought in last season.

Rays broadcaster Joe Magrane, a former big-league pitcher, likens a pitching coach to a defensive or offensive coordinator in the NFL. Some have the personality to succeed as managers, and some do not. In many cases, Magrane said, they are more valuable as pitching coaches. He said former Cardinals pitching coach Mike Roarke turned down at least two managing opportunities to remain a pitching coach.

"Successful pitching coaches become such valued employees that you almost don't want to lose them in that role," Magrane said. "It's almost like you lose their best attribute by moving them into another job."

BANK NONE BALLPARK: Arizona's money woes continue. A recent court decision ruled that the Diamondbacks underpaid for the land Bank One Ballpark was built on and the team owes the original landowners an additional $6-million. This is a franchise that has issued $53-million in cash calls to partners, has borrowed an additional $10-million, deferred a ton of salaries and laid off front office personnel. Any and all donations would be greatly appreciated by owner Jerry Colangelo.

MAYBE COLANGELO SHOULD GET A CAMERA: A Japanese news organization apparently has offered a $2-million bounty for a nude picture of Ichiro Suzuki. Concerned about the amount of Japanese media following him, Suzuki has taken to changing clothes in a room near the Mariners clubhouse.

HOMER HAPPY: Giants first baseman J.T. Snow recently tried out the slide at Miller Park that mascot Bernie Brewer goes down whenever the Brewers hit a home run. "I figured I'd get to see what Bernie feels like," Snow said. "It seems like he'll be sliding down a lot this year with all the home runs flying out this year. He'll have to get a new suit by the end of the year." In the first nine games at Miller Park, teams hit 31 homers. At the same point last season at County Stadium, there were 15.

NO OFFENSE, RYAN: The Rangers, who did nothing to upgrade the worst pitching staff in the majors in the off-season, are looking for pitching help. "There's no pitching out there," general manager Doug Melvin said. "Teams that will trade, will trade you their Ryan Glynns."

LIKE THE OLD DAYS: It is the same old problem in Atlanta. Braves starters are third in the majors with a 3.01 ERA. Their relievers are 26th at 5.32. They lost Terry Mulholland to free agency, and Kerry Ligtenberg has struggled. "We've got to get Kerry going," manager Bobby Cox said, "and find one more guy."

FANNING THE FLAMES: The Royals upgraded their bullpen by bringing in Roberto Hernandez, Doug Henry and Jason Grimsley. They are waiting for an upgrade in results. Kansas City blew four save opportunities during a six-game road trip. Hernandez has been hit hard in opportunities against the Yankees and Blue Jays. "Luckily, I'm tough and can put this outing and the one prior to this away," Hernandez said. FINAL WORD: Rangers manager Johnny Oates on the possibility of moving Pat Mahomes from the bullpen to the rotation. "He's a four-inning pitcher," Oates said. "I've got enough of those."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

From mound to dugout to unemployed

With the Rays firing Larry Rothschild last week, Larry Dierker is the only former pitcher among major-league baseball's 30 managers. And none of the current skippers came to the job after serving as a pitching coach. It is not unprecedented for former major-league pitchers to be successful managers -- Dallas Green, Tommy Lasorda and Roger Craig won N L pennants in the 1980s -- but apparently it is not the best way to make a pitch for the job.

CATCHERS: Bruce Bochy, Bob Boone, Bob Brenly, Buck Martinez, John Oates, Mike Scioscia, Joe Torre

INFIELDERS: Buddy Bell, Larry Bowa, Bobby Cox, Phil Garner, Mike Hargrove, Art Howe, Tony LaRussa, Davey Lopes, Jerry Manuel, Tony Muser, Jimy Williams

OUTFIELDERS: Felipe Alou, Dustry Baker, Don Baylor, John Boles*, Tom Kelly, Charlie Manuel, Lloyd McClendon, Hal McRae, Lou Piniella, Jim Tracy, Bobby Valentine

PITCHERS: Larry Dierker

* did not play professional baseball

-- Compiled by John Romano.

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