OAKLAND -- Before Saturday, Ron Reonicke figured his next chance to wear a big league uniform would materialize in the offseason. Then, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called and three days later Roenicke is coaching third base for the Dodgers.
"It’s hard to just sit home when you’re not supposed to be home," Roenicke said.
Roenicke was fired as Brewers manager on May 3 after a 7-18 start in his fifth season at the helm in Milwaukee, a tenure that included a division title and a trip to the NLCS. Before that he was on Mike Scioscia's staff in Anaheim for 11 years.
"It’s not the kind of thing where you go after a guy right away. As we evaluated our strengths and weakness internally, it seemed like an area where we might benefit from addressing," general manager Farhan Zaidi said. "But I think having somebody with his resume and pedigree in particular was as big a part of the move as anything."
The Dodgers have been one of the worst base running teams in baseball all season, not that all or even most of that blame falls on the head of Lorenzo Bundy, who will now serve as outfield coordinator and remain in the dugout during games.
"Our base running has not been very good at all," Mattingly said. "That's really on all of us as a staff."
"The baserunning has been a major issue with our team all season. Some of that has to do with us not having a lot of team speed. That’s just not an area of strength for us as a roster," Zaidi said. "Some of it has to do with guys running the bases and picking up their coaches. So I think the responsibility for the baserunning falls on all of us really. But again, the chance to bring in somebody that has this as part of his pedigree and a real strength – it was more about that."
The Dodgers wanted to make a change to shake up the coaching staff, whether Roenicke or someone else was the one coming on board.
"I think the best way to describe it is it was partly a function of feeling like creating a new dynamic there might help but also making sure it was the right guy," Zaidi said. "It’s hard to say it was one or the other. I think it had to be the right situation all along."
John Valentin was also affected by the move, unable to be in uniform during games because there are a maximum number of coaches allowed in uniform for each game.
"But half the time anyway [Valentin] was down in the cages trying to get guys ready," Mattingly said. "It doesn't really change that much."
Bundy and Valentin were told of the plans to change before Roenicke was even approached.
"It wasn't any fun, that's for sure," Mattingly said of those conversations.
Mattingly had a list of candidates from president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
"As soon as I saw Ron, his name to me was at the top of the list, as far as quality. I saw him from afar with the Angels, his teams in Milwaukee," Mattingly said. "I had a chance the last couple of years with a dinner with Sandy Koufax, and Ron's always at that. He's just a comfortable fit."
But before Roenicke would take the job offer, he had a question for Mattingly.
"I guess the biggest thing for me was does Donnie want me to do it? Is this coming from somebody else or does Donnie want me to do it? Because I know managing and coaching, I know how important it is to have people you want there," Roenicke explained. "When I asked Donnie about whether he wanted me there, he said, ‘Absolutely.’ It made a difference for me and the fact that he had already talked to Lo about it."
Mattingly when asked if the coaching changes were his idea said only, "I'm not going to get into that."
"It’s an ongoing dialogue we’ve had between the staff and the front office and the coaching staff," Zaidi said. "I think that’s the best way to describe it."
The timing of the move was certainly odd, with 44 games left in the season. Most coaching changes don't happen in season, especially for a club in first place.
"This doesn’t happen very often, so it was something that I was surprised," Roenicke said.
"I think as an organization we’re always looking for ways to improve. If we went out there and made a waiver-wire trade I don’t think anybody would view it as an unusual time to do that," Zaidi said. "The roster is an evolution. The organization is an evolution. When we get a chance to do something that we think is additive, we’re going to make every effort to do it."
Roenicke said he wants to manage again, but dismissed the idea that he is a manager in waiting, someone in-house ready to replace Mattingly should he get the axe.
"I never thought that way. Donnie wouldn’t have asked if and wouldn’t have wanted me to be here if that was a concern. That’s great. Because that’s the way it should be," Roenicke said. "So me coming here is strictly because I wanted to help out when he asked me to do it."
"This move is about this year and it’s about him in this role helping us to go as far as we can in 2015," Zaidi added.
Mattingly dismissed the idea as well.
"I'm not concerned about that. All I care about is winning. This is a pretty good job to have. I'm sure a lot of guys who would like it. That's always the case," Mattingly said. "Those things are so far down the road, you just worry about winning games. We're in a pennant race."