CARLSBAD, Calif. – Having raided one organization they admire in the Tampa Bay Rays for new manager Charlie Montoyo, the Toronto Blue Jays took from another team they feel is ahead of the curve in the Houston Astros, hiring Dave Hudgens as their new bench coach Wednesday.
The 61-year-old from Oroville, Calif., spent the past four seasons as hitting coach for the defending American League West champions, and his knowledge of what they’re doing at the plate in terms of data and approach was surely part of the attraction for the Blue Jays.
His arrival likely means former bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who joined the club with John Gibbons for the 2013 season, will become the third coach to leave the staff after the weekend firings of hitting coach Brook Jacoby and first-base coach Tim Leiper.
General manager Ross Atkins said he "would love to keep him in the organization," but Hale "is going to consider what his alternatives are and we have ongoing discussions about that."
The personable Hudgens leaves the Astros on the same day they also lost Mike Fast, their research and development director, to the Atlanta Braves, who named him a special assistant to general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"Hudge has done a great job for us and been instrumental in shaping our offence," said Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. "He’s been a big part of our success the last couple years. He has an opportunity to be a bench coach on a major-league team and that’s something he’s always wanted to do. It’s not something we can provide for him. We have a bench coach we really like (in Joe Espada, who interviewed for the Blue Jays managerial opening). One of those situations where people that are affiliated with the Astros and our success are in demand elsewhere. It’s unfortunate that we lose good people, but it’s good for their careers. We have to figure out how to replace them. We will and we’ll be fine. It’s just more work."
Atkins has some past familiarity with Hudgens, who served as Cleveland’s field co-ordinator from 2006-2010. An 18th-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1977, Hudgens didn’t sign and instead joined Cleveland as an amateur free agent in 1979, spending two years in their system before signing with Oakland, where he eventually appeared in six games with the Athletics in 1983.
He moved into coaching once his days as a first baseman came to an end, working in both the Oakland and Houston systems before eventually becoming the director of player development for the Athletics from 1996-98 and 2000-02.
"First and foremost, his character," Atkins said of what he likes about Hudgens. "He’s a consummate learner, teacher, extremely well respected by his peers, incredible integrity. His experiences across player development and major-league coaching are exactly what we were looking for."
Additionally, he’ll give the Blue Jays an additional support for their new hitting coach given his background and recent success.
"That’s a nice benefit to have, his hitting expertise," said Atkins. "As we now look to hire a new hitting coach, he will be helpful in identifying that person and his experiences when we do onboard that person will be powerful."