The A’s stayed within the organization to finish off the re-structuring of their coaching staff.
Darren Bush, who spent the past two seasons as Oakland’s bullpen coach, was named the new hitting coach Thursday to replace Chili Davis, who left to assume the same duties with the Boston Red Sox.
Two other longtime coaches in the A’s farm system will join the big league staff, as Scott Emerson takes over as bullpen coach and Marcus Jensen assumes the newly created position of assistant hitting/catching coach.
Combined with Monday’s hiring of Mike Aldrete as bench coach, it gives a new look to manager Bob Melvin’s staff, though Aldrete is the only addition coming from outside the organization.
Bush, 40, served time managing at the Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A levels for the A’s before becoming the big league bullpen coach, and Melvin sees him as a natural to take over on the hitting side.
“This is something he initially did when he got into pro ball,” Melvin said. “He’s always been a help on the hitting end, whether managing, whether in the bullpen for us. It’s always been a passion for him. He has a history with guys on our team, not only in the major leagues, but also guys coming up. Considering all of our options, it’s always nice to promote from within and I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”
Among the current Athletics who got tutelage from Bush while he was managing Sacramento from 2011-12 are third baseman Josh Donaldson, first baseman Brandon Moss and catcher Derek Norris.
It’s known that Angels assistant hitting coach Dave Hansen was one candidate outside the organization who the A’s had discussions with before they settled on Bush.
Emerson, 42, spent the past two seasons as the roving minor league pitching instructor but has been coaching pitchers in the A’s system in various capacities for the past 12 years. He replaces Bush as the bullpen coach.
“He’s a guy for which this is well deserved, and he probably should have been at the big league level before,” Melvin said.
Bay Area baseball fans might remember Jensen from his days catching for the Giants from 1996-97. He spent 2014 as Oakland’s roving minor league hitting instructor but managed the A’s Arizona Rookie League team for the five seasons before that.
Many major league teams have begun employing assistant hitting coaches.
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“He can help out as a resource on hitting, help out with side stuff in the cage, gathering scouting information,” Melvin said. “There’s a lot that a hitting coach has to do. That’s why you see a lot of organizations (hiring assistants).”
Jensen’s biggest contribution probably will be his work with the catchers. He’ll take over as the primary catching coach, Melvin says, with Bush continuing to work with that group as well. Over the years, the A’s haven’t designated someone with the “catching coach” job title. But expect an emphasis to be placed on defensive improvement behind the plate after the A’s ranked 27th out of 30 teams in 2014 in opponents’ stolen base percentage (78.1).
The Kansas City Royals exploited Oakland for seven stolen bases in the American League Wild Card game.
“No doubt it was a problem for us, and it showed up big time at the end,” Melvin said. “Now, No. 1, Stephen Vogt was hurt. With him back behind the plate (in 2015), we should be better just with him there. Derek Norris has the ability to throw better than he did, and some injuries played into it. But we have to get better than the overall numbers showed.”