The Milwaukee Brewers filled three openings on their coaching staff Monday, naming Andy Haines as hitting coach, promoting Chris Hook from within the organization to serve as pitching coach and hiring former pitcher Steve Karsay as bullpen coach.
In addition, the Brewers announced Jason Lane will return as assistant hitting coach and Scott Barringer has been hired as head athletic trainer. Lane had been given permission to look at other opportunities.
News leaked earlier of the hiring of Haines, who had been assistant hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs. He replaces Darnell Coles, who opted to look for work elsewhere and signed on as hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Hook was a longtime member of the minor-league staff, with 11 years of service in the organization, most recently as pitching coordinator for the entire system. He replaces Derek Johnson, who surprised the Brewers after the 2018 season by leaving for a more lucrative offer as pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds.
Karsay, who pitched for 11 seasons in the major leagues, served the past three years as pitching coach for Cleveland’s Class AAA Columbus, Ohio, affiliate. He replaces Lee Tunnell, whose contract was not renewed by the Brewers.
Barringer, who had been assistant athletic trainer for the Houston Astros, replaces Dan Wright, whose contract also was terminated by the Brewers.
“We are happy to add Andy, Chris, Steve and Scott to our major league field staff,” general manager David Stearns said. “All four bring a high degree of skill and dedication to their respective positions and we look forward to their contributions to our team in 2019 and beyond.”
Hook, 50, has worked for several years with the Brewers’ pitching prospects, including young right-handers Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff, each of whom made significant contributions at the major-league level during the charge to the NL Central crown and deep run in the postseason. He served for seven seasons (2008, 2012-’17) as pitching coach at the Class AA level (Huntsville and Biloxi) as well as three seasons (2009-’11) at Class A Wisconsin.
Of getting a chance to coach at the top level after so many years in the organization, Hook said, “It’s humbling for sure. I think being with this group for so long, they felt like it was going to be in good hands. I have a good relationship with so many of the pitchers on the 40-man roster, and really the players on the 40-man roster, and I think there was a lot of comfort there. We’ll continue the good vibes going forward.”
“I think when you know players and you know how they think, you can move them quicker. That’s the way I feel. Even though I don’t know all of these pitchers, I know a good bit of them, and I feel like they trust me. If we trust each other, you can do good things with people.”
Of the way manager Craig Counsell and Johnson used the pitching staff in 2018, with a heavy emphasis on bullpen use, Hook said, “I think it comes down to – Craig said this in his initial press conference – it’s about winning every baseball game. If we can put our guys in a position to win a baseball game, that’s what we’ll do. It’s all about putting them in positions to succeed.”
Asked what’s first on his agenda, Hook said, “I think I’m going to reach out to most of the staff. I didn’t want to do it prematurely. I’ll start making some contact with the guys and seeing where they are at in their off-season.
“Craig is going to be out of pocket here (on vacation) for a little bit, but once he gets back we’ll start getting to work on spring training and trying to get a feel for what guys did well, what they need to improve on. Those are the types of things that are on my list.”
Before three years working for the Cubs, Haines, 41, spent eight seasons with the Miami Marlins, serving as a hitting coach and manager at the Class A and AAA levels. He began his coaching career at Olney Central Junior College in Illinois before moving on to Middle Tennessee State before working three seasons in independent professional baseball.
Having seen the Brewers across the field as they overtook the Cubs for the NL Central crown, Haines said, “I got an up-close view of Milwaukee’s 2018 season, for sure. I’m not saying you could see that magical run happening but you could see they had some good things going on. Once they made those trade deadline moves, it made their offense so balanced, you knew they were going to be dangerous.
“I had so much respect for how much they loved playing together. You could see the dugout energy. They had a lot of weapons so there were so many ways they could beat you. It all came together for them. I don’t think we were surprised at the run they made but I can’t say I knew it would be that magical.“
Haines wasn’t surprised that Christian Yelich emerged as the National League MVP, having coached and managed him for several seasons in Miami’s farm system.
“I talked to him and he did nothing but rave about the group and how special it is,” Haines said. “You don’t make a run like that without it being a connected group. You could sense it across the field. I’m flattered to get this opportunity to be a part of it.
“Watching Christian across the field this year, I couldn’t help thinking about those times together. We always thought with the Marlins he could be as good as this,” Haines said. “And now people will say, ‘Good luck now. That’s as good as he can be.’ But, believe it or not, I think he can be better. I know he’s capable of more.
“That might sound optimistic but that’s how good a player he is. He has it all going for him. I’m excited about working with that whole lineup. That group can really be special. It’s going to be fun working with those guys. I’m excited about the whole organization, really.“
Karsay, 46, pitched in the majors from 1993-2005 with Oakland, Cleveland, Atlanta, the New York Yankees and Texas, appearing in 357 games (40 starts) and going 32-39 with a 4.01 ERA and 41 saves. He spent seven seasons coaching in Cleveland’s organization, from rookie ball to Class AAA.
The rest of the coaching staff remains intact, with bench coach Pat Murphy, third base coach Ed Sedar, first base coach Carlos Subero and Lane.
Prospect protection: Tuesday is the deadline for teams to add minor-league prospects to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings next month.
The Brewers have several prospects eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft, including first baseman Jake Gatewood, outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. and right-handers Trey Supak, Cody Ponce and Carlos Herrera. As of Monday, they had only three openings on their 40-man roster.
New rookie nickname: The Brewers’ relocated rookie-ball affiliate announced its new name: the Rocky Mountain Vibes. That Pioneer League franchise is moving from Helena, Montana, to Colorado Springs in place of the Brewers’ previous Class AAA Sky Sox affiliate, which was moved to San Antonio.