Seeds for Bowa-Sandberg reunion sown years ago

Larry Bowa returns to the Phils as bench coach, and maybe enforcer, for Ryne Sandberg.
Larry Bowa returns to the Phils as bench coach, and maybe enforcer, for Ryne Sandberg. (Associated Press)
Posted: October 11, 2013

Ryne Sandberg chose his first bench coach years ago. When he rode the buses as a minor-league manager in the Chicago Cubs organization, he solicited the advice of Larry Bowa - just as he did decades earlier while playing.

"You're going to be a big-league manager real soon," Bowa remembered telling him.

"Well," Sandberg replied, "that's my goal. And if one thing led to another, would you come back as a bench coach?"

The reunion, Bowa said, "happened fast" after the season ended. There was no need for the cantankerous man to mend fences with Phillies management, in this, his fourth stint with the organization. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. deferred to Sandberg, who advocated for Bowa.

"I didn't have to talk to anybody," Bowa said.

The 67-year-old baseball lifer has not coached since the 2010 season. He spent the previous three years working on TV as an analyst for MLB Network. His bombastic personality as a coach stung some - Matt Kemp was a recent example when Bowa was third-base coach in Los Angeles - but Sandberg said Bowa's attitude can be helpful.

"I like people to be themselves," Sandberg said. "But he's coming on board to support me and be one of the coaches. Everybody works together. . . . A little bit of energy and excitement is something he can bring to the ball club in a positive way. We've had discussions about that, and he's totally on board with what's going to be asked of him. I'm excited to have him around."

Bowa said he thrived for five years as a coach under Joe Torre because there was no meddling by the manager. Bowa was known as Torre's disciplinarian and could fill the same role under Sandberg, whose personality is similar to Torre's.

Still, some refining is required.

"You understand there are more cameras around than 12, 13 years ago," Bowa said. "There are things you change, no doubt. The players are different, the personalities are different, and as a coach you have to make that adjustment."

One pupil will be Jimmy Rollins. Bowa and Rollins have a strong relationship, and some tough love from Bowa could serve as motivation for a 35-year-old Rollins in his 15th season as Phillies shortstop.

"He made big improvements in the last month of the season with pitch selection, and his playing in the field," Bowa said. "There's not a play he can't make, and I think he is a better hitter than .255. He's probably the least of the worries for the staff. I think he has a lot of baseball left in him."

While the Phillies hired two men - Bowa and third base coach Pete Mackanin - with experience in the organization, they reenter with a fresh view - Bowa from TV and Mackanin after one year scouting for the Yankees.

"It comes in very big when you're seeing it from both sides as scout and in the coaches' room," Mackanin said. "The coaches don't always agree with scouts, and I think working at both ends gives you a different perspective. I think Larry experienced the same thing working in television. You look at things and players in a different way, and you evaluate them in a different way."

Extra bases. Michael Martinez, Pete Orr, and Zach Miner each elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster last week. Martinez could return on a minor-league deal just as he did last winter. . . . Juan Samuel remains a candidate to return as first base coach, but the Phillies are still considering other options there.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb www.inquirer.com/

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