After Bob Melvin bolted to the Bay Area shortly after the 2023 season ended, the San Diego Padres tabbed Mike Shildt as the team's new manager heading into the 2024 season. Shildt had been with the Padres organization since 2022, and had previously served as the St. Louis Cardinals manager from 2018-2021 after Mike Matheny was fired.
This offseason, Shildt has assembled his team of coaches including longtime Padres minor league coach Mike McCoy and former Toronto Blue Jays assistant Tim Leiper. Shildt also added Victor Rodriguez to be the Padres hitting coach and decided to retain pitching coach Ruben Niebla.
But he also went against the grain during the hiring process. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that instead of a traditional bench coach, those duties will be split up among the various coaches on staff.
Padres manager Mike Shildt will not employ a traditional bench coach
This is certainly a departure from the norm. Traditionally, a team's bench coach is the manager's lieutenant. They're the ones who are relaying all relevant information, handling scouting reports, and can fill in for the skipper whenever he gets ejected from a game.
So what happens when -- not if -- Shildt is thrown out of a game. According to Shildt, if that does occur, the managerial duties will be split between Ruben Niebla and catching coach Brian Esposito.
This seems like a recipe for further confusion, doesn't it? While the top minds throughout baseball are always looking for edge, that usually includes an addition, not a subtraction. Recently, dugouts have been filled with more coaches than ever before. The Tampa Bay Rays employ a Pitching Strategist, while the Cincinnati Reds have an Integrated Performance Coach.
Taking the responsibilities of a bench coach and dispersing them amongst the rest of your coaching staff, some of whom are relatively green, would seem to suggest that Shildt's first year as the head man in San Diego isn't off to the most promising of starts (from a structural perspective).
AJ Preller is firmly behind the decision, however. The Padres President of Baseball Operations was quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune as saying, "The responsibilities of your traditional bench coach will be covered." That all sounds good now, but let's wait until the 2024 season unfolds before we draw that conclusion.