One of MLB's most surprising managerial openings is set to be filled before the offseason even begins. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Monday night that the Reds will name pitching coach Bryan Price as their new manager. Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer confirmed the team will hold a press conference on Tuesday to make the announcement.
Price, 51, has been the Reds' pitching coach since the 2010 season. He's had previous tenures in the same position, coaching six seasons with the Mariners and four with the Diamondbacks. This is his first managerial opportunity at the major or minor league level.
The Reds began looking for a manager when they fired Dusty Baker days after the team's loss in the NL wild-card playoff game to the Pirates. Cincinnati lost five straight games to end the regular season, eventually finishing third in the NL Central, seven games behind the Cardinals. That ensured the Reds would have to play the wild-card game on the road.
Price appeared to be the man for the job as soon as Baker was fired. According to the Enquirer's John Fay, Price and Jim Riggleman (manager of the Reds' Triple-A Louisville club) were the only candidates confirmed to interview for the position. Former Reds stars Barry Larkin and Paul O'Neill had also been mentioned as possibilities, but Fay tweeted that they were never serious candidates.
As the Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans points out, it's increasingly rare for a pitching coach to be hired as a manager. Of the current MLB skippers, the Padres' Bud Black and John Farrell of the Red Sox were previously pitching coaches. (With the Red Sox in the World Series after Farrell took over, perhaps this was the best time for Price to make his case for the job.)
For what it's worth, Price will also be the sixth current big-league manager to have never played in the majors. He spent five seasons in the Mariners and Angels minor league organizations.
Former Mariners general manager Pat Gillick touted Price as a future manager more than 10 years ago when both were in Seattle, according to a tweet from ESPN's Buster Olney.
As you might expect, the pitchers that Price has coached endorse him as their skipper. Bronson Arroyo said he'd be "unbelievable" in the job, saying "he's as organized as anyone in the game" and holds players accountable. Mat Latos said Price should be the front-runner for the position, based on the work he's done with the Reds' pitching staff.
Cincinnati ranked 12th with a 4.01 team ERA during Price's first season as pitching coach. In 2013, the Reds were fourth in MLB with a 3.38 mark. He's helped develop many of the team's young pitchers, including Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Aroldis Chapman. (Will Price try to convert Chapman to the starting rotation, as Baker once did?)
Whether or not players improved under a coach's tutelage is often used as a barometer of their job performance. Of course, that indicates little as to how a coach might succeed as a manager with running a game, managing a bullpen, etc. But as we've seen throughout MLB with managers such as Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura and Walt Weiss, teams are far more willing to take chances on first-time skippers, especially if they're surrounded by quality coaches who can aid in strategy and game management.