Baylor, Butcher not returning to Angels' staff

Baylor, Butcher not returning to Angels' staff

ANAHEIM -- The Angels, under new general manager Billy Eppler, announced late Tuesday night that they will not bring back hitting coach Don Baylor or pitching coach Mike Butcher next season.

Baylor and Butcher each had expiring contracts.

Baylor, the first MVP Award winner in Angels history, was winding down his second season in Mike Scioscia's coaching staff and has been asked to return in an advisory role. Butcher spent nine years in his now-vacant role -- not to mention 10 prior years as a Major League player or Minor League coach -- and will seek other opportunities.

Eppler, announced as the new GM just eight days earlier, stressed that the decisions were made in conjunction with Scioscia, the 16-year manager who's signed through 2018. A rift developed between Scioscia and former GM Jerry Dipoto when Dipoto dismissed then-hitting coach Mickey Hatcher in May 2012, two months into his first season as GM.

This situation, Eppler indicated, is different.

"I'm not worried about Mike and I at all," he said in a phone conversation. "We've been in constant communication. We've talked about a number of things. We've talked about staff, we've talked about players, we've talked vision, we've talked about a lot of things together. We're looking forward to ultimately putting together a coaching staff that we can be proud of, that can lead our players on the field and lead us to where we want to go in 2016."

The Angels will look internally and externally to fill both positions, Eppler said.

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Dave Hansen -- a former hitting coach with the Dodgers and Mariners -- has served as an assistant hitting coach the last two years and could be promoted to take over for Baylor, but Eppler wouldn't get into specifics. Hansen assumed a lot of Baylor's duties when Baylor missed time early in the 2014 season recovering from hip surgery.

Erik Bennett, the Triple-A Salt Lake pitching coach, is well-regarded throughout the organization and could replace Butcher at the Major League level. Another possibility is former Angels pitching coach Bud Black, who was dismissed as the Padres' manager in June.

"We're putting together a candidate list internally now," Eppler said when asked specifically about Black. "To talk about any specific individuals would be premature at this point."

Butcher took over as Angels pitching coach in November 2006, replacing Black after spending the previous year with the Rays. Butcher, 50, also pitched out of the Angels' bullpen from 1992-95 and coached in their Minor League system from 2000-05.

While on the Major League staff from 2007-15, Angels pitchers ranked third in the AL in ERA (4.00), third in WHIP (1.32) and fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.33). Butcher caught flak from fans over disappointing seasons from Scott Kazmir, Fernando Rodney, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson, but he also helped develop the likes of Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago and Andrew Heaney.

In a statement, Butcher said all parties -- he, Eppler and Angels president John Carpino -- "mutually agreed this might be a good time for change."

"I got to know Mike once I took this spot here," Eppler said. "We had a very good and constructive conversation. He's articulate, he's got passion, he's got presence, he's got vision. Ultimately, we arrived at that conclusion that we would mutually part ways after our discussions."

Baylor, who did not release his own statement, enjoyed a 19-year career as a feared Major League hitter and then spent 23 seasons in a managerial or coaching capacity. In Baylor's first year with the Angels, the offense led the Majors in runs. But the Angels' offense struggled mightily through the first three months of the 2015 season and ultimately finished 20th in runs.

More prominent in the decision, perhaps, was Baylor's health and mobility. Baylor was diagnosed with multiple myeloma -- a cancer that weakens the bones -- in 2003. And on Opening Day 2014, the 66-year-old broke his right thigh bone while reaching to catch the ceremonial first pitch thrown by Vladimir Guerrero, an ailment that kept him away from the team until late June and hindered him through the 2015 season.

Eppler declined comment when asked if Baylor's health played a part in the decision.

"It was an organizational decision that, through discussions, we felt like it was the proper course of action for what we wanted to do," Eppler said. "I've spoken with Don at length, and I've asked him to stay on in an advisory role within our baseball-operations group and our efforts moving forward. Someone with Don's acumen and his experience and his eye for talent can definitely be an asset."

Baylor hasn't decided on whether to return in an advisory role, but expressed his desire to remain with the organization during an interview in mid-September, saying: "I'm an Angel. That's why I wanted to come back here and be a part of this organization."

Eppler is still gathering information about his new club. The 40-year-old longtime Yankees executive recently checked into a hotel in Arizona to catch the last four days of the Angels' instructional league and is still sifting through other potential moves within the front office, scouting department, player-development staff and Major League coaching staff.

Over the last week, Eppler estimated that he and Scioscia have spent 14 hours on the phone.

"It's awesome," Eppler said. "We're having a lot of fun in our discussions."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.