PHOENIX -– Chip Hale spent many years coaching under Bob Melvin and watching how the A’s manager went about his business.
Now Hale, a Bay Area native and former Oakland bench coach, is getting to put some of those lessons to use in his first year as the Arizona Diamondbacks manager. This three-game series at Chase Field marks the first time Melvin and Hale will match wits in a major league game as opposing skippers.
Hale, who also coached under Melvin when Melvin managed the Diamondbacks from 2005 to 2009, gave Melvin a ride to the ballpark Friday, giving them a chance to catch up.
Asked the one quality from Melvin he tries to apply most to his own job, Hale didn’t hesitate.
“Patience,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. (Melvin) is very patient. He does grind hard on the inside, but he never shows it to the players. He’s really good about that. He realizes the game is difficult for the players, but he also holds them to standards they need to be held to to be successful.”
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The A’s-Diamondbacks connections are heavy for this series, and they go beyond Hale. Just look at the people he reports to. Arizona general manager Dave Stewart was a four-time 20-game winner for Oakland and one of the franchise’s most beloved players from those dominant late-80’s squads. The manager of those great A’s teams, Tony La Russa, is now Arizona’s Chief Baseball Officer.
Having a Hall of Fame manager looking down from the front office can be intimidating for a first-year manager. But Hale says he embraces La Russa’s input, and calls on him semi-frequently.
One of those times came Friday morning, when Hale made the call to bat pitcher Chase Anderson eighth and Nick Ahmed ninth, looking to get his young shortstop some better pitches to see without the pitcher in the on-deck circle. That’s an outside-the-box maneuver that La Russa sometimes used while managing St. Louis.
“Tony is always an ear I can call on to help me out, even with lineup situations, how to handle certain situations with players. He’s always there for me,”Hale said. “Every front office-manager relationship grows over time, and that’s what we’re in the midst of here, figuring out how we roll here compared to how it was in Oakland with that group. It’s really growing to be a nice situation between the two -- Tony and myself.”
With right-handed hitters actually having more success against the right-hander Anderson than lefties, Melvin is sitting Sam Fuld and Eric Sogard, two left-handed hitters who typically might be playing on this night. The lineup includes Jake Smolinski in left field over Coco Crisp, whose neck is acting up a bit.
“He works hard and prepares,” Melvin said of Smolinski. “He’s talented too. At some point in time, we have to give him quite a few at-bats to see what we have.”
First baseman Ike Davis underwent successful hip surgery to repair a torn labrum, and he’s expected to be ready for spring training.