Results tagged ‘ Al Pedrique ’

Astros give contract extensions to five coaches and hope to make it six. Your move, Bags.

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In the 13 years I’ve been around the Houston Astros, I cannot remember a coach ever getting a contract that extended beyond a one-year deal. I checked with a couple of people who have been here a lot longer than me — Bill Brown and Greg Lucas, to name two — and they, too, could not recall any instances from the past where a coach was granted a multi-year deal.

Even Ed Wade, who has hired plenty of managers and coaches over the years as the general manager for the Phillies and Astros, can’t remember an entire coaching staff being offered two-year contract extensions at one time. In other words, multi-year deals for coaches are saved for a very select group and don’t happen very often. That the Astros handed out five such extensions in one day speaks volumes about the job the staff has done this year and the continuity the club is creating as it attempts to separate itself from a playoff drought that is now going on five years.

Five extensions were awarded, but the Astros are hoping to add a sixth. The decision rests solely with Jeff Bagwell, who was offered the same two-year extension as his colleagues but is still undecided on whether he wants to continue as the hitting coach. He’s still torn between the job and his family, and while he has enjoyed his time in his current role, I’d still put his odds of returning next year at no greater than 50-50.

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Wade is hoping Bagwell takes the extension but understands there’s a chance he won’t. When Bagwell took the job in July, he gave no false pretenses — this was absolutely an interim position, a trial period of sorts where Bagwell would find out if a) he was good at the job and b) wanted to make this a more permanent gig.

“You have to be all in,” Wade said. “This isn’t a job where you can dabble.”

And that’s the sticking point. Either Bagwell commits a minimum of 7 1/2 months (8 1/2 if the Astros make the playoffs) of his calendar year to the Astros, or he commits 12 months to his kids, ages nine and seven. He won’t let this linger through the winter, and I would expect a decision to come within a couple weeks of the season’s end.

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I was sincerely glad to hear that the rest of the coaches were given such generous extensions. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you might recall me talking a few weeks ago about what an eye-opening experience it’s been to watch this group work this year. It’s not that the Astros haven’t had good coaches in the past — they have — and maybe it’s because I’m simply paying more attention to this group this year, but I can’t remember a staff that was quite this on the ball and dedicated, both with their time and their knowledge.

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After the coaching shakeup last winter, I said that the Astros took the field 162 times in 2009 and rarely were they the most prepared team on the field.

This season has been a complete 180. The Astros certainly didn’t win every game — heck, they didn’t even win most of their games. But as far as scouring scouting reports and spray charts, watching video and being completely prepared for any and all scenarios that might come down the pike during a game, these coaches were always two steps ahead. Good for them.

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The extensions of the coaches naturally prompts the question, “What about Brad Mills?” Mills is signed through 2011 with an option for ’12, and I would look for the option to be picked up soon after the season ends. Wade said he’ll sit down with Mills and discuss the manager’s “situation,” but this is all a formality. There is no way Mills will have to start next season waiting for the option to be picked up, and it wouldn’t shock me if he was extended far beyond ’12 in the very near future. Said Wade: “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve hired my last manager.” (And no, that doesn’t mean Wade is going anywhere, save the snarky responses.)

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Keeping the coaching staff intact through ’12 at the very minimum is all part of the grand plan to create continuity, which contributes to an organizational flow that affects every level, from the big leagues to the lowest levels of the Minors. Mills’ first order of business as soon as the season ends is to go to Florida to watch the Astros prospects in Instructional League, in an effort to familiarize himself with the younger talent coming through the system.

It’s important for Mills to be able to manage the 25 players he has at any given time on the big league level, but it’s also extremely helpful to be familiar with the kids coming up through the system. Soon, he’ll have those players in Spring Training, including many who will be sent to Minor League camp but will eventually appear at the big league level. This all goes back to continuity — having one group of leaders, all on the same proverbial page, teaching one overall organizational philosophy.

When Fred Nelson, the new farm director, and Dick Scott, the club’s Minor League Field Coordinator, search for the club’s next Triple-A and Double-A managers, they will stress the importance (especially at the Triple-A level) of creating the same atmosphere in the Minors so that the transition to the big leagues will be as seamless as possible.

Winning teams are built from the ground up, and the Astros certainly appear to be preparing for long-term health, from top to bottom. In April and May, the Astros appeared to be years away from being legitimate contenders. Their second-half turnaround suggests that a winning season could happen sooner than we thought. Creating stability at the very top, in the leadership positions, is a good place to set the foundation.

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Enough preaching. Picture time:

This clipboard that hangs on the cage during batting practice and spells out who’s hitting in what group and who is the designated BP pitcher.    

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When you see players gathered in the dugout before BP talking amongst themselves, there’s a pretty good chance they’re talking about fantasy football. The more animated players are usually the ones faring the best in the standings.

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Catching up with Brian Esposito, Jason Castro.

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Humberto Quintero, Michael Bourn.

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From the photo vault

We take you back to 2001, when the Astros clinched the NL Central division on the final day of the season in St. Louis.

First up: Octavio Dotel and Jose Cruz, with Moises Alou peeking over in the background.

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Also, that same night…third baseman Chris Truby and shortstop Adam Everett, both in the very, very, very early stages of their careers.

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Touching base with Al Pedrique.

Every Friday through Spring Training, we’re running a feature called “Touching Base.” This is an effort to let the fans get to know the Major League coaching staff, from the four newcomers to the two returnees.

We hope this gives you insight to what coaches do every day. Their duties extend far beyond what you see them do on a field once the game starts.

We started with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, followed by hitting coach Sean Berry. 

 This week, we spotlight bench coach Al Pedrique.

(Check out our one-on-one video interview with Pedrique here.)

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It really all starts in Little League.

The objective, when tutoring eight and 10 year olds, is to keep things interesting, and hold the players’ interest.

In the big leagues, the object of the game is, obviously, winning. But some things never change, and in the early days of Spring Training, coaches make sure to avoid one simple emotion: boredom.

The best way to make morning workouts tedious is to drag the station-to-station drills to a slow crawl. That can often be the case in spring camps, but this year, the Astros’ coaching staff, with the help of bench coach Al Pedrique, has worked hard to make sure to avoid monotony.

How? It’s simple: keep things moving. Get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Fundamentals — pickoffs, rundowns, hitting the cutoff man, plays at the plate, covering bases, throwing to the right base, and on and on and on — are hugely important over the course of a season. But practicing involves lot of, by definition, going through the motions.

This year, workouts ran like the proverbial well-oiled machine. That’s due in large part to Pedrique, who’s in charge of crafting the entire six-week Spring Training schedule, all the while working side-by-side with new skipper Brad Mills.

“You have to keep things interesting,” Pedrique said. “You don’t want to keep players on the field for more than two hours, or they’ll just start going through the motions. They get bored.”

Pedrique, like the entire coaching staff, starts his workday long before the sun comes up, and he won’t leave the ballpark until late in the afternoon. He works extensively with the players on the field, but in the hours beforehand, he has to make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.

“We have to make sure guys know when they’re traveling, when they’re not traveling,” Pedrique said. “The guys that stay back, they have to know what the program is for the day. A lot of the guys would like to go home early, but still, even when they’re not making the trip, we’ve got something they need to go through, whether it’s a PFP (pitchers fielding practice), throwing the side, hitting and bunting. We’re pretty busy the whole day.”

This is Pedrique’s first year as bench coach, but he has an extensive resume within the Astros’ organization. He first joined the club in 2004, when he began a three-year run as a special assistant to the GM. In 2006, he took over all Latin American operations, including the overseeing of the franchise’s academies as well as the player development and scouting efforts.

He began the 2009 season as the Astros’ Minor League field coordinator but ended it as their third base coach after Dave Clark took over as interim manager in September.

Pedrique also interviewed for the managerial position that eventually went to Mills. The two have spent ample time together this spring, getting to know each other as they prepare to become a one-two dugout punch once the regular season begins.

The getting-to-know-you stage began soon after Mills was hired. They traveled to the Arizona Fall League and participated in several staff meetings as the groundwork was laid for 2010.

“We started going over Spring Training, his ideas and suggestions,” Pedrique said of his new field boss. “For the most part it’s a combo, teamwork, and so far, we feel like we accomplished a lot.”

Mills spent six years as Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston, so he’s more than familiar with what Pedrique has on his plate this spring. Pedrique spent half of 2004 as Arizona’s manager, so he’s quite well-versed on what Mills is going through now.

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 “We’re trying to get to know each other right now, to get his thoughts and ideas, how he likes to run the game, how he likes to manage, the moves that he likes to make now with the double switch,” Pedrique said of his new field boss. “Basically, I’m trying to keep my eye on the little things, because I know he has a lot of stuff on his mind. He’s thinking two, three days ahead, so I’m sometimes behind him.

“For the most part, I just make sure to pay attention to details. Remind him, ‘this is the fourth inning, the fifth inning, how many at-bats somebody’s going to get, when to pinch-run for somebody.’ Just kind of keep his mind fresh.”

Just the facts: Al Pedrique
Born
: Valencia, VZ
Resides: Tucson, AZ
Age: 49
Drafted: Signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 1978.
Major League debut: April 14, 1987
Final game: June 21, 1989
First year as a Minor League manager was 1995.
Was a coach for the World Team in the 2003 MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Something you might not know: He managed Roy Oswalt in 1999, with the Astros’ Class A affiliate in Michigan. 

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