After firing manager Mike Redmond mid-season and watching the disaster that was general-manager-turned-manager Dan Jennings, the Miami Marlins decided on a more experienced skipper. They hired former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who had been the front office’s first choice all along. The team interviewed a few other candidates, such as Larry Bowa, Manny Acta, and Bo Porter, but it was all song and dance while they waited for the Dodgers to officially part ways with Mattingly. Once Mattingly signed a four-year contract to be at the helm, the other pieces started to fall into place.
The Marlins coaching staff will have several members returning from the 2015 group. Perry Hill will remain as first base coach and infield coach. Former Marlin Lenny Harris will return as the team’s third base coach, and Reid Cornelius will remain as bullpen coach. Last year’s “Hitting Coach” Frank Menechino will return as well, this time as “Assitant Hitting Coach” (more on that later).
Perry Hill has been lauded for his work with infielders for a long time. He began his coaching career in the Texas Rangers system in 1984 and was infield and first base coach for the big league club from 1992 to 1995. He coached for the Detroit Tigers from 1997 to 1999, helping them become the first team to ever go from the worst fielding percentage in the league one year to the best the very next year. He then spend 2000 and 2001 with the Montreal Expos before joining the Marlins organization in 2002. He remained with the Fish his first time around until 2007. He coached for the Pittsburgh Pirates for a year in 2009, then rejoined the Marlins in 2011. Marlins players consistently praise Hill and his methods for helping them improve defensively, a measure which can be proven with the work of infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Lenny Harris is the all-time leader in pinch hits with 212. He played for eight different teams in his career and amassed a slash line of .269/.318/.349. He began his coaching career with the Washington Nationals, where he was the infield coach and the third base coach from 2006 to 2008. He joined the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2008 as minor league hitting instructor. He first joined the Marlins organization as a coach for the Gulf Coast League Marlins and was later promoted to assistant hitting coach. He became the third base coach last season after an alleged rift between the team and former third base coach Brett Butler.
Reid Cornelius will be in his 13th season as part of the Marlins organization and his sixth as the bullpen coach. Since taking on his current position, Marlins relievers have posted four of the seven lowest ERAs in club history. Also, the ‘pen owns a 3.63 ERA since Cornelius took over, good for seventh-lowest in the league. As a player, he played for three different teams and made appearances as a starter and a reliever, never finding much success in either role (8-17 record, 4.91 ERA overall).
Frank Menechino returns as the Marlins hitting coach after his second year in that role in 2015. He was tagged with an “Assistant” title this time around though, with Bonds taking on the role (in name, at least) of hitting coach. Menechino is in his first Major League coaching assignment after five years coaching in the minor leagues for the New York Yankees. He helped Marlins hitters improve from a dreadful .231 batting average in 2014 to a less awful .253 in 2015. The Fish ended up ranked sixth among National League teams in on-base percentage in Menechino’s second year. As a player, he played for the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays, appearing in 450 games and posting a .240 batting average with 36 home runs.
While Mattingly and the Marlins chose to (or perhaps agreed to, depending on the conversation) retain a few key coaches, several new faces will be in Marlins uniforms next season as well. For starters, Mattingly brought Tim Wallach along as his bench coach, the same position he served under Mattingly for the Dodgers. Juan Nieves will be the team’s new pitching coach. Lorenzo Bundy will take care of outfield and base running duties. Brian Schneider has been brought in as a catching coach. The biggest name of all though is the Marlins new hitting coach: Barry Bonds.
Tim Wallach was the Dodgers third base coach from 2011 to 2013 and spent 2014 and 2015 as Don Mattingly’s bench coach. He managed the Dodgers Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes in 2009 and 2010, leading them to a division title in his first season as skipper. He also spent time as Dodgers hitting coach at both the major and minor league levels and brings a wealth of baseball experience with him as Mattingly’s right-hand man. His playing career spanned 17 seasons between the Montreal Expos, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the California Angels. He compiled 2,085 hits and 260 home runs. He was named to the All-Star Game five times, won three Gold Gloves along with two Silver Sluggers, and is the Expos franchise leader in many offensive categories.
Juan Nieves replaces Chuck Hernandez as the Marlins pitching coach. Nieves spent three seasons as the pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox. Prior to joining the Red Sox in 2012, Nieves had spent 14 seasons with the Chicago White Sox organization, including five seasons as their bullpen coach. Nieves led the 2013 Red Sox pitching staff to post their lowest ERA since 2002, along with franchise records in strikeouts and strikeout rate per nine innings (K/9). Nieves only spent three seasons in the big leagues, all with the Milwaukee Brewers. His career consisted of a 32-25 record to go with a 4.71 ERA. He threw a no-hitter in 1987 and was the first Brewers pitcher ever to do so.
Lorenzo Bundy spent two years as the Dodgers third base coach and eight years in the organization. He managed the Dodgers Triple-A team for three seasons before joining the big squad. He has managed 12 years in the minor leagues for three different organizations, including a previous stint with the Marlins in 1997. He also was with the Marlins in 1998 as the bench coach. Despite his official title, he has always played a large role in his team’s defensive positioning and base running. As outfield and base running coach, he will be able to lend his expertise more specifically this season. For his playing career, Bundy spent eight seasons in the minor leagues with the Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Montreal Expos organizations. His compiled minor league numbers were decent enough (.318, 135 home runs, 534 RBI), but he never got a chance to crack a 25-man roster.
Brian Schneider is being brought in for a new position: catching coach. The Marlins have promising young catcher J.T. Realmuto solidified as the team’s starter after an effective rookie year. Schneider was always seen as an excellent defensive catcher, and he should be able to lend some of his knowledge to Realmuto and other catchers in the Marlins organization. In 2014, he was the manager of the Marlins Single-A team, the Jupiter Hammerheads. This will be his first season as a coach at the major league level. As a player, he spent time with the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies. He compiled a .247 batting average with 67 home runs and 387 RBI.
Finally to the one with all the fanfare, Barry Bonds will join the Marlins as the team’s hitting coach. He was reportedly approached by team owner Jeffrey Loria with the idea to come on as a coach. Bonds is the all-time leader in home runs with 762 and won seven MVP awards as a player. He’s been working with his former team, the San Francisco Giants, as a roving instructor and has been a presence with the club for their past few Spring Trainings. This position with the Marlins will be his first official coaching job in baseball.