McDowell could ride trend to managerial job
Braves' pitching coach has displayed potential to be a big league skipper
ATLANTA -- Roger McDowell's potential future as a big league manager has been clouded by the archaic thought that most pitching coaches are not fit to fill this elevated role.
But it appears this old school baseball premise might be fading. The Red Sox will enter the World Series led by a manager -- John Farrell -- who previously served as their pitching coach. As for the Reds, they chose Bryan Price, who has handled their pitching staff the past four seasons, to be Dusty Baker's successor.
McDowell has not emerged as a candidate to fill any of Major League Baseball's four managerial vacancies -- the Cubs, Nationals, Mariners and Tigers. But sources have indicated that the Phillies could eventually approach McDowell about the possibility of filling their vacant pitching coach position.
While McDowell, Terry Pendleton, Eddie Perez, Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher have all been invited to return to serve on Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez's coaching staff next year, they have not yet received their respective contracts for the 2014 season. But they are each expected to receive these contracts before their agreements for the '13 season expire at the end of this month.
It is far too early to speculate about the potential of McDowell not returning to the Braves next year. But the success he has had while serving as Atlanta's pitching coach the past eight seasons has at least created the possibility that he one day could follow in the footsteps of Farrell, Price, San Diego's Bud Black and the others who have made the transition from pitching coach to manager at the big league level.
"I don't think there's any job in baseball that Roger couldn't do, whether it's pitching coach, manager, coaching third or running a team," Gonzalez said two weeks ago. "I think he's that talented, that brilliant and also a hard worker. If I told him you're going to be the infield instructor, he'll find somebody to teach him in three months how to be the best infield instructor he can be, and he'll do a good job."
McDowell's stock certainly rose this year as the Braves overcame a number of significant injuries on the way to posting a MLB-best 3.18 ERA. The relief corps, which lost Jonny Venters in March and Eric O'Flaherty in the middle of May, produced a franchise-record 2.46 bullpen ERA.
The Braves entered this season with a rotation that included just two pitchers -- Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm -- who had made more than 55 career starts. Injuries limited Maholm (7) and Hudson (2) to combine for just nine starts after the All-Star break.
But with Mike Minor and Kris Medlen building on last year's success and Julio Teheran enduring nothing more than minor growing pains during his first full Major League season, the Braves' rotation still posted a 3.51 ERA -- the franchise's second-best mark dating back to the 2000 season.
"[McDowell] is the best pitching coach in baseball," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "He's the smartest baseball guy I've been around."
Dating back to 2006, McDowell's first season as Atlanta's pitching coach, the Braves have compiled the game's second-best ERA. They rank first in this category when going back to the start of the 2009 season.
Braves pitchers and catchers have praised McDowell's ability to develop and convey gameplans aimed toward neutralizing specific hitters and lineups.
Still like was once the case with Farrell and Black, who were the only former pitching coaches who served as big league managers this year, McDowell will have critics who will question his ability to handle the many other aspects of managing that extend beyond the pitching perspective.
It is safe to say one of those critics will not be McCann, who spent this past season praising McDowell's ability to convey his pitching knowledge and serve as a respected leader.
"He relates well with everybody," McCann said. "He knows when you need a pat on the butt and when you need a kick in the butt. He manages people and his staff."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.