Some bad news from Arizona. The Diamondbacks just announced that bench coach Ron Gardenhire has prostate cancer. He will have surgery to remove his prostate at a date yet to be determined and will take a leave of absence from the team at that time.
“I’m going to fight it and deal with it,” Gardenhire said. “It’s a bump in the road and it’s not how I envisioned starting Spring Training with a brand new team but it’s part of life. With the backing of this ball club, we’ll get through it and I’ll get through it.”
Gardenhire, 59, is entering his first season with the Dbacks. He spent 13 seasons as manager of the Minnesota Twins, making 6 postseason appearances and winning the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2010. Before that he spent 11 seasons as the Twins’ third base coach.
“We are a family,” said Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo. “As a family, there’s a series of tests that are going to come upon us and this is a big one, but we’re going to come together and help Gardy through this to the best of our ability. We’re not going to miss a step because we’re committed to him.” Diamondbacks President & CEO Derrick Hall said, “The entire organization stands behind Ron and we are here to support him through this challenging time. He certainly knows that there are resources throughout the franchise that he can turn to and of course, we will do everything we can to assist him.”
Best wishes to Gardenhire for a successful surgery and a quick recovery.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.