Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol made a very favorable impression on the Detroit Tigers’ decision-makers in his interview to become the club’s next manager, according to an MLB.com report.
Grifol, who recently finished his eighth season with the Royals and first as bench coach, has emerged as one of the top candidates, according to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi in a report Sunday citing unnamed sources.
Manager Ron Gardenhire retired abruptly in September with eight games remaining in the season.
The Tigers also reportedly interviewed Los Angeles Dodgers first base coach George Lombard and New York Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, both former Tigers, as well as Detroit bench coach Lloyd McClendon, who finished the season as the club’s interim manager.
Grifol’s name had been floated the last time the Tigers’ managerial job came open, before the 2018 season, but he did not interview for it.
Grifol has interviewed for managerial openings each of the previous two offseasons, including for the Royals’ opening last year, the San Francisco Giants’ job last year and the Baltimore Orioles job before the 2019 season.
“He was a great candidate,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told The Star in December during the MLB Winter Meetings. “Just you get into these processes and there’s a lot of really good candidates and there’s really tough decisions. He was a guy that was involved in our process for multiple rounds, which I think speaks to how highly we thought of him.”
Grifol was a finalist for the Giants’ opening last winter before San Francisco hired Gabe Kapler, who’d worked with Zaidi previously in the Dodgers organization.
“I think when you’re in one of these processes, you realize there’s only 30 of these jobs and there’s so many guys that are qualified and capable,” Zaidi said of Grifol. “Just from having met him and spent time with him, I really hope he gets the opportunity because I think he would be terrific.”
Before joining the Royals, Grifol worked for the Seattle Mariners in several capacities, including scouting, the front office and as a minor-league manager.
Grifol worked as an area scout and then as a minor-league manager with the Mariners from 2000-05. He was a minor-league field coordinator from 2006-08 and minor-league farm director from 2008-11.
Late in the 2010 season, after a managerial shake-up, he also served as a coach on the major-league staff as well as the club’s farm director. Grifol managed the Mariners’ Single-A affiliate, High Desert, in 2012.
Grifol joined the Royals as a hitting coach at the rookie-ball level in 2013, but the Royals elevated him to a special assignment coach for the major-league staff in late May and made him hitting coach in late July. He became KC’s catching coach in 2014 and added quality control coach to his title in 2018.
This season, he took over the bench coach job and coached the Royals’ catchers. A Cuban-American who is bilingual, he continued to work closely with designated hitter Jorge Soler and shortstop Adalberto Mondesi on game-planning for at-bats and pitchers.
Grifol was also responsible for assisting manager Mike Matheny with daily preparation, anticipating scenarios, in-game adjustments, lineup changes and analyzing potential matchups.
“It’s something every manager should shoot for, to get their coaches to where they want to be,” Matheny said in September when the Tigers job opened up. “I don’t blame anyone for wanting to be in the managerial seat. We have guys who are wired for that and have the capacity for it.”
Grifol and third base coach/infield coach Vance Wilson have each been rumored candidates for managerial jobs in the past and figure to garner consideration in the future.
As far as the potential that Grifol might potentially manage a team in the division, Matheny said in September, “I haven’t put that much thought into it, but I have watched managers in the past who have managed against close friends, and you can see there is this intensity that’s a little more, because you know more about them and they about you — the chess match, the cat-and-mouse. There’s always that extra added component if it would happen.”
The division-rival Chicago White Sox will also fill a managerial opening this offseason. Rick Renteria was fired last week.
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