The Phillies introduced a zen-like manager with a taste for the analytical side of baseball. But that does not mean new manager Gabe Kapler will be surrounded by a coaching staff of like-minded peers.
"Quite simply and directly, I believe in building diversity," Kapler said at a news conference Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. "One of the things that I don't think, and I have a feeling I'll get support from Matt [Klentak] here, is I don't want seven people in the dugout who think just like me. I value somebody with a lot of veteran experience. I have a tremendous amount of value for someone who thinks more progressively. A guy that has [coached] at first base and has picked out tells on a pitcher his whole life can teach me so much and I want to be able to drink that up. So I'd say diversity of thought, diversity of experience, that's a strong way to build a major-league coaching staff."
The Phillies, he admitted, had a late start at filling the vacancies on the coaching staff. Hitting coach Matt Stairs left for San Diego. Third base coach Juan Samuel interviewed for Kapler's job and could have a place on the staff. First base coach Mickey Morandini and assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz are in the mix.
The search, Kapler said, is at the beginning stages. He expects to have a lot of conversations in the coming days. A staff could be finalized as early as next week. One of Kapler's first conversations was a Wednesday phone call with Dusty Wathan, the triple-A Lehigh Valley manager who finished runner-up to Kapler. Wathan is under contract for 2018 and is a candidate to join Kapler's staff.
"Dusty was incredibly impressive in this process. Obviously the fact that he was a finalist would suggest that we thought a lot of him. I've told Dusty we would follow up with him to talk about a plan for him," general manager Matt Klentak said. "No decision has been made, but we are really proud of everything he accomplished and the way he conducted himself in the interview process. We're really glad he's with the Phillies."
Minor-league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves and triple-A pitching coach Dave Lundquist could also be options. Brian Sweeney, who impressed this season as the pitching coach at low-A Lakewood, would be an interesting candidate.
"One of the things we're committed to is not leaving any stone unturned," Kapler said. "Definitely taking a look at some really, amazingly strong internal candidates."
It will be interesting to see how Kapler blends his staff. He has just one season of coaching experience — managing in 2007 at single-A . He will surely surround himself with some veteran guides. But it can be expected that this staff will include a few choices that are just as intriguing as Kapler, a self-described baseball man who seems to see the game far differently than any other manager in team history. Thursday set the table for an interesting 2018 season. And the next week — as the team finalizes Kapler's staff — could be just as interesting.
"I think the most important thing is we hire the right group of coaches where the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts," Klentak said. "I think it's reasonable to expect there will be a range of experiences and backgrounds on that staff, just as Gabe suggested, but I would stop short of saying a particular position has to be of a certain mold. I think there are reasons to have a coaching staff that possesses a lot of different experiences."