By Jon Weisman
Not only are there new names in the Dodger coaching staff, there’s a new title — one that might seem kind of out there.
But “quality assurance coach,” the role to be filled by former Dodger infielder and minor-league infield coordinator Juan Castro, is actually a very down-to-earth role, according to Dodger manager Dave Roberts.
Roberts said in a conference call today that the definition of the job evolved as he was forming his coaching staff.
“Juan had been in the system working with the infield, and he had the rapport with a lot of Latin players,” Roberts said, “and I think his ability to teach was attractive to me. So I think for me, as the puzzle kind of played itself out, and (as) I looked at a staff that doesn’t have anyone who speaks Spanish, it only made sense to have Juan on board, help (third-base coach) Chris Woodward out with the infield defense, (and) sit in the suite and watch from above during the game to help us with things like that.”
So while Castro will be in uniform before the games and on the field or in the clubhouse or dugout, by the time the first pitch is thrown he will often be upstairs, supervising the scene like an NFL defensive coordinator.
“Whether he’s watching the game in the clubhouse on the screen, or up top and seeing the whole big picture,” Roberts said, “right after the game we can talk about things from his perspective. But he’s on the Major League staff. He’s going to be hitting ground balls, work with infielders and helping with positioning and doing all that stuff as well.”
Under the current leadership, it’s inevitable that people will wonder how much control a Dodger manager has in matters like selecting a coaching staff. Roberts offered the less exciting but logical answer — that he gathered a ton of information but settled on his own choices.
“It’s one of those things where I was actually searching for names,” Roberts said. “This was my first time going through this process. I know a lot of people in the game, but a lot of times it’s a puzzle you’re trying to put together. I took a lot of input from people inside the organization and outside the organization, and used a lot of the resources … but ultimately I made those decisions.
“It’s me kind of exhausting all my relationships in the game — I’ve been in this game since 1994 — to come up with the kind of people who make the most sense for the Dodgers. So ultimately, I feel great about the decisions that I made.”
Roberts confirmed that bullpen catchers Rob Flippo and Steve Cilladi will be returning as bullpen catchers. But perhaps the biggest surprise for Dodger watchers was that Gabe Kapler will continue as director of player development, rather than becoming first-base coach.
“Gabe was definitely in the mix, and obviously what he brings to an organization is huge,” Roberts said. “I think at the end of the day, in talking to his family, just remaining in his role as farm director made more sense for them, as well as the organization itself. That’s the way he thought he could impact us the most. Then to get George Lombard to fill that role, I feel very fortunate.”
Earlier today, Kapler spoke to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal about his thought process.
“I spent a great deal of time examining this and having a number of discussions,” Kapler told Rosenthal. “I absolutely love working with our players and staff. We have a number of exciting initiatives that are in their early stages.
“Ultimately, I couldn’t walk away from what we have just started to build in player development. This is the right role for me to make the most powerful impact.”
As for the role of bench coach, Roberts said that Bob Geren fell into place naturally. The former Oakland A’s manager had been doing that job for the Mets from 2012-15.
“When you’re looking at a bench coach, it’s someone who has done the job and didn’t necessarily need to manage, but Bob obviously checked that box while coming from a winning organization,” Roberts said. “He’s a San Diego guy, so we have a lot of familiar friends. … The moment I talked to him, I was very excited about his attention to detail.”
One other name worth mentioning: While he’s not an official in-season coach, there’s no doubt that Roberts intends to have his numbersake Maury Wills in uniform during Spring Training.
“I obviously have a great relationship with Maury,” Roberts said. “I love his energy. For him to be in uniform is good for the organization and good for players. You’ll see him in Maury’s Pit quite frequently.”