Ron Gardenhire had stopped looking for a job in baseball. Then one found him.
The second-winningest manager in Twins history will be back in a major league dugout next season, after being hired Thursday by the Arizona Diamondbacks to be their bench coach under rookie skipper Torey Lovullo.
“I was pretty comfortable [being] retired, but Torey called me,” Gardenhire, 59, told mlb.com about his new job. “I hadn’t been putting my name out there, so that’s what’s pretty cool about it. [Lovullo] said he thought about me and thought it would be interesting.”
It’s a new team and a new role for Gardenhire, whose 1,068 victories in 13 seasons as Twins manager are second most in franchise history. After being fired in 2014, Gardenhire interviewed for managerial openings in San Diego and Washington, then was hired again by the Twins last April as a special assistant to former General Manager Terry Ryan. He visited each of the organization’s minor league teams last year to evaluate the team’s prospects and offer advice to players and managers, but his future was unclear after Ryan was fired in June.
Now he will help Lovullo, who coincidentally was a finalist for the Twins job after Gardenhire was fired in 2014, adjust to a new job while learning one himself.
“I’m looking forward to working with Torey. I talked to a lot of people who know him as a great baseball guy. A young manager, his first time out there, that’s exciting,” Gardenhire said of his new boss, a former Red Sox bench coach who was hired by the Diamondbacks on Nov. 4 to replace Chip Hale. “For him to call me and ask me to help him out, I thought that was pretty cool.”
So what sort of bench coach will Gardenhire be?
“We’ll find out. I’ve never done it,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve been there and done it [as manager], and I am sure all managers have questions. Hopefully, some of that experience will be able to help [Lovullo], in spring training, or in handling players, all those things. I’ve seen a lot of players and dealt with them.”
Gardenhire led the Twins to Central Division titles in each of his first three seasons as manager and won six Central crowns in his first nine seasons, but he won only one playoff series, his very first in 2002. He will return to Target Field with his new team next Aug. 18-20.
He was named AL Manager of the Year in 2010 after the last of his division championships, but the Twins never had another winning record under the former Mets infielder. Gardenhire, 1,068-1,039 in 13 seasons — his victory total is second only to his mentor, Tom Kelly’s 1,140, in Twins history — was fired in 2014 after a 70-92 final season, and was replaced by Paul Molitor.