The Braves wanted to ride with a pitching coach known for working with young arms, and now they will.
Chuck Hernandez, a former major league pitching coach in four organizations, was promoted Tuesday from Braves minor league pitching coordinator to major league pitching coach. He replaces Roger McDowell, whose contract option was declined last week in large part because the Braves weren’t satisfied with the recent development of young pitchers.
“Our young pitchers are going to be critical to our success,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said, “and having somebody like Chuck, who not only was a four-time (major league) pitching coach but also has experience with our young kids as our minor league pitching coordinator — that direct experience — we felt like he would be the perfect choice for what we’re trying to do right now.”
The Braves also announced Tuesday that veteran former manager Ron Washington, after interviewing for the Braves’ managerial position, was instead hired as third-base coach, replacing Bo Porter, who will move into the front office as a special assistant to the general manager.
The rest of the coaches had their 2017 contract options exercised: bench coach Terry Pendleton, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, first-base coach Eddie Perez, bullpen coach Marty Reed and assistant hitting coach Jose Castro.
Perez is reportedly a candidate for the Colorado Rockies managerial vacancy. Perez, Pendleton and Porter all interviewed recently for the Braves managerial job, but the team made the move many expected in retaining Brian Snitker as manager after his impressive stint as interim manager for more than three-fourths of the 2016 season.
Washington, 64, was one of six finalists for the Braves managerial job, but ended up taking the third-base coaching position in a late development that the Braves welcomed. Washington was third-base coach for Oakland last season and managed the Rangers for eight seasons through 2014, guiding them to American League pennants in 2010 and 2011.
“It was something that just came up,” Coppolella said. “Wash brings so many things to the table. Nobody else on our staff has past managerial experience; he’s a guy who led teams to back-to-back World Series. I think he sees what we’re building here, the team we’re building, the future we have, and he’s from New Orleans, so it’s a chance to go back home to the South…. There wasn’t any (initial) thought to have him in this role. He got very strong managerial consideration.”
Hernandez, 55, was hired by the Braves in November 2015 and had a great deal of success working with the stable of prized pitching prospects in the minor league system. His 31-year coaching resume includes major league pitching-coach stints with the Marlins (2013-2015), Tigers (2006-2008), Devil Rays (2004-2005) and Angels (1992-1996).
“He’s been somebody that, as we talked with every (managerial) candidate, they all had very good things to say about Chuck,” Coppolella said. “He’s somebody that I really enjoyed working with this year. I know John Hart feels the same way, and (Braves player development director) Dave Trembley, (assistant player development director) Jonathan Schuerholz, all our guys on the farm.”
Among the young pitchers Hernandez worked with in other organizations: Jose Fernandez during the late Marlins pitcher’s 2013 Rookie of the Year season, and Detroit’s Justin Verlander during his 2006 Rookie of the Year season.