Rays dismiss hitting coach Henderson

Rays dismiss hitting coach Henderson

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays announced Monday that hitting coach Steve Henderson, along with quality assurance coach Todd Greene, will not be back with the team in 2010. A new hitting coach will be hired during the offseason while the quality assurance position is being discontinued.

"It was something we've been talking about for the past couple of weeks," said executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman on a conference call. "I think it's obvious the impact that [Henderson has] had on our guys in the Minor Leagues and also the Major Leagues, and ultimately it was a very difficult decision. Both of us have tremendous respect for him -- his tireless work ethic and all the things he does on a daily basis. But ultimately we felt like it was time for a new voice."

The rest of manager Joe Maddon's staff will remain intact, which means Jim Hickey will return as the pitching coach, Davey Martinez as bench coach, George Hendrick as the first-base/outfield coach, Tom Foley, as the third-base coach/infield coach and Bobby Ramos as the catching/bullpen coach.

Henderson, 56, experienced a 12-year playing career in the Major Leagues that ended in 1989 before beginning his coaching career in the Pirates' organization. He has spent the past 13 seasons in the Rays' organization, eight of those as Tampa Bay's Minor League hitting coordinator.

Friedman said "there were some inadequacies offensively this year," but the move wasn't about pointing a finger at Henderson. Friedman went so far as to say, "I'm accountable, and [the move] has nothing to do with things that have transpired." But he said the Rays were making the right move and that such a move would allow them to "advance things going forward."

Maddon has harped on the importance of situational hitting throughout his tenure as the team's manager, so it's likely Henderson's replacement will have some definite ideas about how to improve that facet of the Rays' hitting. The Rays are in the process of identifying the candidates they would like to interview for the open position.

As for the quality assurance coach, Friedman said what they planned for the job did not turn out to be what they wanted, which was not a reflection on either of the quality assurance coaches the team has had in Tim Bogar and Greene.

Hickey was a target of criticism this season for the team's inability to reach the postseason. But Maddon stood by his pitching coach.

"I really think he's a very good pitching coach," Maddon said. "Sometimes pitchers have to be accountable to their own work, also. I watch him on a daily basis. I know how he prepares. I know how he works with these guys. I know what he's like in the dugout. I know how much he cares. I see all that stuff daily.

"And I've worked with a lot of pitching coaches over the course of time, and I really rank him among the best. And he's a young man. He's going to continue to get better at his craft, also. I really see a high ceiling for Hickey as we move this thing forward, and I think he's going to be considered one of the better pitching coaches in baseball in the next couple of years."

Brian Anderson's status as assistant pitching coach is still being discussed. Anderson operated in said role this season while also serving on select broadcasts as the team's color commentator. In addition, Don Zimmer should be back next year in his role as senior advisor to the team.

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