Gator returns to lead Yankees pitchers

Gator returns to lead Yankees pitchers

NEW YORK -- The final pieces of the Yankees' coaching puzzle were put into place on Friday, wrapping up a week in which the club added five new coaches to Joe Torre's staff.

Ron Guidry, who won 170 games in a 14-year career for the Yankees, was named the team's new pitching coach. Guidry replaces Mel Stottlemyre, who served in the position for the past decade, but opted not to return for an 11th season.

"I spoke to my family about it, and they said 'Maybe you should give it a shot before you get too old,'" the 55-year-old Guidry said. "I'd been thinking about it, and if you're going to do something, as far as I was concerned you should do it while you're still kind of young."

Also introduced on Friday was Joe Kerrigan, who will serve as the bullpen coach. Kerrigan joined the organization last season as special advisor to general manager Brian Cashman, doing in-house advance scouting for the team.

Guidry and Kerrigan join third-base coach Larry Bowa, first-base coach Tony Pena and bench coach Lee Mazzilli as the newest members of Torre's staff. Don Mattingly will be the only returning member, serving his third season as hitting coach.

"Like every year, we try to put together the best staff possible; hopefully we've done that," Cashman said. "We have a lot of experience, a lot of people our players can go to for help."

Guidry has been rumored to be Stottlemyre's successor for several years, having worked with Yankees pitchers in Spring Training every year since 1990. Torre first spoke to Guidry about the possibility three years ago, when Stottlemyre first began talking about retirement.

"Joe has a great deal of trust in him," Cashman said. "Joe has worked close with Ron for a number of years, and he's been talking to him for three years about replacing Mel when Mel decided to retire. This is the man he wanted."

For Guidry, the opportunity to put the pinstripes on again was too much to pass up.

"It was no secret when I had several chances to leave as a free agent, I never chose to go anywhere," Guidry said. "I never envisioned there was any place better to play than in New York. I can't go back and play, but to go back in a capacity as a pitching coach and become part of the organization again, it's a great honor and a great challenge. I think it's going to be fun."

Guidry was the Yankees' co-captain (with Willie Randolph) from 1986 through 1989. A four-time American League All-Star, he remains in the top 10 on the Yankees' all-time list in games pitched (368), innings pitched (2,392), wins (170), winning percentage (.651), strikeouts (1,778) and shutouts (26).

"Having pitched my whole career in New York and being successful there, that has to account for something," he said. "I understand the pitching aspect of the game, so hopefully I can take that with me and go from there."

In 1978, the left-hander posted one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history, going 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA to help the Yankees overcome a 14-game deficit in the AL East, eventually overtaking the Red Sox and winning a second consecutive World Series title.

From the 1977 All-Star break through the end of 1978, Guidry went 35-5. In 1978, he compiled a franchise-record 248 strikeouts en route to a unanimous selection as the AL's Cy Young winner. On June 17, 1978, Guidry shattered the club record for strikeouts in a single game with 18 against the Angels. His No. 49 was retired by the Yankees in 2003.

Guidry knows that the game has changed since his playing days, most notably with the specialization of relief pitchers. Complete games may be a thing of the past, but there's one thing Guidry knows that hasn't changed in the past 15-20 years.

"All of my pitching coaches, the biggest thing they would tell you is that if you couldn't throw the ball over the plate, you couldn't pitch in the big leagues," he said. "You have to throw the ball over the plate."

The addition of Kerrigan will give Guidry another resource in his first season, as Kerrigan has plenty of experience as a pitching coach for the Expos, Phillies and Red Sox. He is also the fourth former manager on the staff, as he managed the Red Sox for the final two months of the 2001 season.

"I'm probably going to have to lean on a lot of people," admitted Guidry. "I've spoken to Joe, and he has a real good background with pitching. I'm going to look to him for a lot of help. ... I have some ideas, but I'll talk to a lot of people to make sure my ideas are sound."

"When you walk into that job, it can be a little overwhelming," Kerrigan said of being a pitching coach. "Getting all your starters lined up, your backup starters lined up, getting your bullpen guys throwing in a routine. Once he gets a handle on that, he'll be fine. It all works out in Spring Training."

Kerrigan will continue breaking down some video for the Yankees, which was a major part of his job last season. Although he has experience as a manager and pitching coach, he knows that his role as bullpen coach is entirely different, having filled that position with the Expos from 1983-86.

"I like being a grunt. I love catching, I like throwing BP; I like to do the physical part of it," Kerrigan said. "I really enjoy that -- it's like going to a playground or a park, like an extension of your childhood.

"I've been fortunate to be on the other side, where I've been a bullpen coach and I've had former pitching coaches as my bullpen coaches," he added. "I know how the relationship works, I know how it can be beneficial to help the staff and the pitching coach overall. I have a pretty good idea of what territory you can cross into and what territory you can't."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.