|New Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t worried about following Bobby Cox. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)|
The Braves didn’t even wait 48 hours to introduce Bobby Cox’s replacement.
No need. Fredi Gonzalez was Atlanta’s manager-in-waiting almost as soon as Cox announced that 2010 would be his final season.
In what was nothing more than a formality, Gonzalez took over yesterday as the team’s new manager, succeeding the fourth-winningest skipper in baseball history.
Gonzalez said he’s not worried about following in Cox’s large footsteps. The Braves’ manager since 1990, Cox led the team to an unprecedented 14 straight division titles and the 1995 World Series championship. After missing the playoffs the last four years, Atlanta returned as a wild card this season.
Cox’s managing career ended Monday night when the Braves, devastated by injuries, lost to San Francisco in Game 4 of the NL division series.
“Our goal is simple: We want to keep putting flags on that facade up there,’’ Gonzalez said. “I don’t think there’s a person alive that’s going to replace Bobby Cox. We just want to continue the winning tradition and go from there.’’
Gonzalez’s return to the Atlanta, where he served as Cox’s third-base coach from 2003-06, has been widely expected ever since he was fired in June by the Marlins.
“This is perfect for us on so many levels,’’ said general manager Frank Wren, who didn’t even bother interviewing another candidate.
Cox will remain with the team as a consultant and looks forward to spending time at spring training, but he’s going to be mostly in the background — just as he was at Gonzalez’s news conference, sitting to the left of the new manager at the end of the table.
Gonzalez apprenticed under Cox before leaving to take over as Florida’s manager, a post he held for 3 1/2 years.
He had a record of 276-279 with the Marlins, one of baseball’s lowest-spending teams, but was fired June 23, a month after he benched star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for a lack of hustle.
Harper turns 18 Saturday, and he will join the Scottsdale Scorpions Tuesday. He’ll be a member of the taxi squad, which means he is eligible to play in games twice a week.
“I recognize that this kid is going into a situation that is pretty unprecedented. He’s going to be an 18-year-old player in an extremely accelerated league,’’ Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.
The Nationals made Harper the top pick in June’s draft, then signed him to a $9.9 million, five-year deal in August.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 205-pound Harper was a catcher in junior college at the College of Southern Nevada, but the Nationals plan for him to play right field.
Harper played in the Florida Instructional League in September, hitting .319 with four doubles, a triple, four homers, 12 RBIs, and seven walks.
“We’re going to tweak his stroke and his approach at the plate,’’ Rizzo said. “He’s going to work on the nuances of his swing, and . . . playing the outfield and just get immersed in the baseball, 24/7 — hitting, fielding, running the bases.’’
Bill Mazeroski and nearly a dozen other Pirates teammates were there in Pittsburgh, and so were the vivid memories of fans reliving the greatest moment in franchise history.
Several thousand Pirates rooters gathered at the spot where Forbes Field stood on Oct. 13, 1960, the day Mazeroski’s historic homer in the ninth inning gave the underdog Pirates a 10-9 victory over the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.
A half-century later, the Pirates’ come-from-behind victory over the Mickey Mantle-led Yankees — they trailed, 7-4, in the eighth inning — is considered to be one of baseball’s classic games.