Greg Colbrunn, who was hired as hitting coach of the Red Sox Wednesday, had no direct connection to the team or manager John Farrell. He also lacks major league coaching experience.
Unlike the other coaches added in recent weeks, Colbrunn was an outsider and not an obvious choice at the start of the search.
But the 43-year-old Colbrunn impressed the Red Sox with his approach to the job and ability to relate to the players. The more Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington learned, the more they liked.
“This was a very astute hire,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who hired Colbrunn as a Single A hitting coach in 2007. “Greg is more than qualified for that job and in our estimation [there is] no better hitting candidate in the marketplace than him. We were lucky to have him for as long as we did.”
Colbrunn spent six seasons with Single A Charleston, five years as the hitting coach and one (2010) as the manager. It was a comfortable lifestyle for his family. But when the Red Sox approached, Colbrunn pursued the position avidly.
“I’ve had a couple opportunities in the past to move up or do something different than being here in Charleston,” he said. “But nothing ever really sounded too good or anything.
“This offseason, this situation came up, the opportunity came up. After going through the interview process and my wife being from Connecticut, it’s a great opportunity.”
Farrell said Colbrunn shares his philosophy of getting the Red Sox back to a more patient approach, something their hitters let slide last season under hitting coach Dave Magadan, who was hired by Texas in October.
Farrell said he want to the Sox to be “relentless” in trying to get the opposing starter out of the game.
“Force pitchers to respect him from the first pitch of the at-bat,” he said.
Colbrunn does not expect a difficult transition.
“The biggest challenge for me as hitting coach coming from A ball to the big leagues is dealing with big leaguers and dealing with all their personalities and getting them all locked in on the same page,” he said. “But the biggest thing for me as a hitting coach is getting to know the starting pitchers and the pitchers throughout the American League and the National League.”
Colbrunn spent 13 seasons as a player in the majors with the Expos, Marlins Twins, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Mariners. He was a .289 hitter with 98 home runs in 992 games. Colbrunn was with the Diamondbacks when they won the World Series in 2001. He was 4 for 12 in that postseason with two RBIs.
New Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield was on the Arizona staff in 1999 and 2000 when Colbrunn played there.
“Butter is one of my favorite coaches that I’ve ever had,” said Colbrunn.
The Sox will add an assistant hitting coach to the staff. Victor Rodriguez, the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator, is the leading candidate. He had applied for the hitting coach position.
“I think the most important [factor] when you consider an assistant hitting coach is they’ve got to be aligned in their overall thoughts as far as hitting goes,” Farrell said. “We can’t have conflicting messages to the individuals. And once that rapport is built with those two staff members, now it gives the ability to have that trust.”
Once the Red Sox hire the assistant hitting coach, Farrell will have his staff in place. They will meet early next month in Fort Myers, Fla., to start planning for spring training.
Unlike last season, when several of the coaches feuded with manager Bobby Valentine, this group should be able to work together.
“Very happy,” Farrell said when asked about his coaches. “In large part not only because the experience and success that each has had individually, but the people that they are.
“They can communicate and teach, and that’s a common thread that links us all together.”
Flurry of trades
The Red Sox traded three players who had been designated for assignment last week. Righthander Sandy Rosario went to Oakland, third baseman Danny Valencia to Baltimore, and righthander Zach Stewart to Pittsburgh.
The Sox received a player to be named later for Stewart, cash for Valencia, and either a player or cash for Rosario.
In all three cases, the Red Sox had a choice of releasing, trading or outrighting the player to the minors.
Rosario was claimed off waivers from Miami Oct. 17.
Valencia was acquired from Minnesota Aug. 5. He was 4 for 28 with a home run and four RBIs in 10 games for Boston.
Stewart was 0-2 in two starts for the Red Sox, allowing 14 runs on 17 hits over 5⅔ innings. The Pirates will be Stewart’s fifth organization in the last four years.
The Red Sox received Stewart and infielder Brent Lillibridge from the White Sox in return for Kevin Youkilis last June 24.
Lillibridge was 2 for 16 in 10 games before being designated for assignment and traded to Cleveland.