View Full Version : Hriniak the Sox new hitting coach?

10-18-2001, 05:47 PM
The Red Sox that is....

SEATTLE - Having fired their hitting coach for the second time in as many offseasons, the Red Sox are now aggressively pursuing longtime coach Walt Hriniak as a replacement for Rick Down.

The question, for now, is whether the Sox can convince Hriniak to take the job.

According to a handful of sources, Sox manager Joe Kerrigan already has had at least one lengthy conversation with Hriniak, a Natick native who has been out of baseball for six years. Hriniak, however, will need some convincing after a coaching career during which he was once one of the highest paid coaches in baseball.

Hriniak, 58, served as a Red Sox coach from 1977-88, spending part of that time as the team's hitting coach. He later spent seven years with the Chicago White Sox, who fired Hriniak following the 1995 campaign.

While Hriniak has not coached since being fired by Chicago, White Sox slugger Frank Thomas brought Hriniak with him to spring training before the 2000 season. Thomas, who had struggled in each of the two previous years, rebounded to bat .328 with 43 home runs and 143 RBI in 2000. He missed all of 2001 due to injury.

While many Red Sox followers undoubtedly remember Hriniak for the adverse affect his hitting principles had on the career of catcher Rich Gedman, the instructor also had an accomplished, loyal following. Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans all swore by Hriniak. One is in the Hall of Fame, one is on his way there and the other is a candidate worthy of legitimate consideration.

Down's departure was only one of several expected changes to the Sox coaching staff, though at least one staff member, Gene Lamont, acknowledged yesterday that he has been invited to return as third base coach next season. Lamont still has hopes of managing again, but the only jobs currently available are in Florida and Minnesota, making his return to the Sox all but definite.

``I've been invited back,'' said Lamont. ``I haven't gotten a contract, but they're going to offer me one.''

Aside from Lamont and pitching coach Ralph Treuel, who is also expected back, the remaining members of the coaching staff may very well be fired or reassigned. Though Kerrigan has claimed that he asked for the return of bench coach Dave Jauss after Jimy Williams was fired, Jauss, too, may return to his previous role as minor league coordinator. The futures of first base coach Tommy Harper and infield instructor Nelson Norman remain in question.

Dana Levangie, who moved into the role of bullpen coach after Williams was fired, will likely remain with the team, but he, too, may return to his previous role as the bullpen catcher. The Sox apparently consider former catcher and first baseman Mike Stanley a candidate for the job of bullpen coach, though Stanley could be valuable in a handful of other areas as well.

Beyond the major league level, the Sox are also reportedly considering significant changes to their minor league staff. Former big league bench coach Buddy Bailey is reportedly being considered to reclaim his old post as Pawtucket manager, replacing Gary Jones. And while the Sox have spoken with former Houston Astros hitting coach Tom McCraw, indications are that the Sox are eyeing him as a minor league instructor.

For the big league job, after all, their eyes are on Hriniak.