MILWAUKEE — One of Craig Counsell’s first goals as Milwaukee Brewers manager finally became a reality on Monday, when former Padres interim manager Pat Murphy was formally announced as the team’s bench coach.
Counsell and Murphy, 56, have a long history. Murphy was Counsell’s head coach at Notre Dame from 1989 to ’92 and the pair have remained close ever since.
“We’ve had a 25-year baseball conversation,” Counsell said. “He had a great impact on me as a player and I think a lot of it was his passion for what you do, how you come to work every day and enjoying what you do.
“If you can connect with somebody you can impact them. That’s an important trait in coaches and I think Pat’s got a unique ability to do that.”
Murphy, who also coached Arizona State from 1995-2009, had been a coach in the Padres’ minor league system since 2011.
The Brewers sought permission to interview Murphy when Counsell replaced Ron Roenicke in May, but San Diego declined the request. The Padres ultimately gave Murphy his first big league managing job on June 16, replacing Bud Black.
When the Padres opted to not retain Murphy after the season, Counsell and the Brewers moved quickly.
“He’s shown a great ability to impact people,” Counsell said of Murphy. “I’ve seen him impact players in college, professional baseball and the big leagues and I think he’ll continue to do the same in a Brewers uniform. I feel really lucky to be able to get him here.”
Milwaukee also announced Derek Johnson will join the team as pitching coach. Johnson, 43, has spent the past three years serving as the Chicago Cubs’ minor league pitching coordinator. That followed an 11-year stint coaching pitchers at Vanderbilt, a group that included David Price and Sonny Gray.
Johnson decided to bring back Lee Tunnell to serve as bullpen coach next season. Tunnell was originally among the five coaches Counsell inherited from Roenicke who was let go after the season. But Tunnell was kept in consideration because of Milwaukee’s 3.46 bullpen ERA last season — one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing performance.
“Results are always a part of the equation, but a much larger part was the fit with DJ and Lee working together, the varying experiences and skill sets they each have,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said. “Clearly, the fact that we had a strong performance from our bullpen last year helped, but it was more important to have the right fit between pitching coach and bullpen coach.”
With a youth movement getting started in Milwaukee, the ability to teach was an important attribute in the coaching search, though Stearns said the lengthy collegiate experience of both new coaches was merely coincidental.
“We recognize we’re going to have a young group of core players for the foreseeable future,” Stearns said.
“We wanted to make sure that we surrounded them with a staff that is used to and comfortable working with young players. That was certainly a major aspect that we looked for.”
Tunnell, Johnson and Murphy will join holdovers Ed Sedar and Darnell Coles, who will handle third base and hitting duties, respectively, leaving two spots to fill on Counsell’s staff.
Stearns has narrowed his list of candidates but has yet to hire a farm director and said assistant general manager Gord Ash will remain in the organization, serving in an advisory and scouting role.
“He’s going to be a very helpful advisor from a strategic thinking standpoint,” Stearns said of Ash. “He’ll also do some professional and major league coverage for us once the regular season gets going.”
The Brewers sent five players outright to Class AAA Colorado, removing them from their 40-man roster: outfielder Logan Schafer, first baseman Matt Clark, catcher Juan Centeno, left-hander Cesar Jimenez and right-hander Johnny Hellweg.
Pitcher Kyle Lohse also filed for free agency, the only Brewers player eligible to do so.