McGwire gets first crack at managing a game

Padres bench coach fills in while Green heads to Mexico

McGwire gets first crack at managing a game

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mark McGwire checked off another box on his baseball resume on Friday, when the former slugger served as acting manager during a big league ballgame in the Padres' 12-11 loss to the Rangers.

McGwire, the Padres bench coach, took over for Andy Green -- who was en route to Mexico City for a split-squad weekend series against the Astros. In Green's stead, McGwire skippered the Padres for their game against the Rangers in Surprise. (He'll also manage a pair of weekend contests vs. the Angels.)

McGwire has spoken in the past about his desire to one day become a manager. For now, however, his sole focus remains on his new role as bench coach.

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"I've never ruled it out," McGwire said of managing. "When I had the opportunity to come and be Andy's bench coach -- it's just a fantastic opportunity. I love challenges, and there's nothing better than challenging yourself, especially in the game of baseball. I did it as a player. Now I'm doing it as a coach."

McGwire missed three weeks earlier in camp to tend to his family while his wife dealt with an undisclosed medical issue. (During a split-squad game earlier this month, Rod Barajas -- currently the skipper at Triple-A El Paso -- took over managerial duties.)

The upcoming season will be McGwire's first as a bench coach. He spent the past six years as hitting coach -- three apiece with the Cardinals and Dodgers -- and he's reveled in his role as a teacher.

"When I'm a player, sitting in the corner of the dugout, I didn't really follow what Tony [La Russa] was doing," McGwire said of his first big league skipper. "I was more concerned about what I can do and what I'm going to do to that pitcher.

"Then when I got into the dugout in 2010 and stood behind him, I was like, 'Wow.' To think about all the stuff that you learn as a player -- you try to help out other players as a coach. Learning what Tony has done, having talked with him, how he runs a ballgame -- it's just way different than as a player."

Though McGwire is the club's bench coach in title, that doesn't mean he's been relegated to one specific role. Green has reiterated this spring that running the ballclub is a joint effort, with each coach helping his players any way he can. McGwire has already had an impact on the swings of several Padres hitters, notably Wil Myers and Matt Kemp.

McGwire is a big fan of Green's collaborative philosophy, and the feeling of respect is obviously mutual between the two.

"From an offensive gameplan perspective, he's going to be huge," Green said of McGwire earlier in camp. "And for me as a sounding board -- We hired him because we wanted him here, we wanted his opinion, we wanted his influence."

Despite the 1,500-mile difference, McGwire and Green will communicate with each other this weekend to discuss on-field happenings.

As for his first taste of the speed of the game as manager, McGwire doesn't think he'll get the full perspective in a Cactus League contest.

"Spring Training games are obviously different than the real-season games," he said. "... The game definitely speeds up [as a manager]. I'll get to see it right there, up front, as a bench coach and just pick and watch how Andy works."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.