ZEBULON, N.C. – Edwin Rodriguez climbed the managing ladder all the way to the major leagues. Now the former Florida Marlins skipper has settled into a new home back in the minors.
Rodriguez is one of a handful of ex-big league managers who have resurfaced this season in the minors. Hes now in charge of the Single-A Carolina Mudcats and relishing the challenge of developing the next crop of Cleveland Indians.
Most of the guys that got to manage in the big leagues – I would say a high percentage of them – they have been through the minor leagues and the development side, working with the minor-league players, the young players, and thats one thing that you just dont stop doing, Rodriguez said.
You really like when you see a player grow up as a player, as an athlete, and its a very great moment for you as a coach when you see that, he added. Im just talking about myself, but Im pretty sure everybody would say the same thing. ... So whenever we have a chance to stay in baseball and come back to the minor leagues, I think thats one thing wed take into consideration.
He certainly isnt alone in the minors.
Former Cleveland interim manager Joel Skinner is now with Triple-A Charlotte. Former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is with the Reds Double-A affiliate in Pensacola. Ex-Toronto skipper John Gibbons has resurfaced with the Padres Double-A team in San Antonio. San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes calls Gibbons a great addition to our organization.
His knowledge, calmness and competitiveness have all proven to be standout qualities, Byrnes said. We are lucky to have him.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti said Rodriguez is invaluable because he provides a unique set of experiences.
Its not often that former MLB managers slide back to the minors. More frequently, they find work on someone elses big league staff while hoping for that next big-league managing gig.
The move back down to the minors usually requires a refocusing of priorities. While managers are judged primarily on wins and losses in the big leagues, the emphasis is a little different in the minors – the record matters, but generally not as much as keeping the players developing and moving up the farm system.
Players makeup sometimes is different – theyre a little more fragile mentally, and they have to understand that its a grind, Rodriguez said. Its a long season, and thats the part that as a manager or coach, you have to take that in consideration, making sure the confidence is going to be there regardless. ... The difference is, in the big leagues, you have to make sure theyre doing their work and all that. In the minors, you really have to work on the mental side of the player.
Rodriguez insists he isnt in a rush to get back to that level. Sure, if a big-league team wanted to talk, hed take the call – but thats not what drives him these days.
If I retired today or they fired me today, I would be pleased, Rodriguez said. I just want to be in baseball for as long as I can and they want me here. Theres no goal, theres no agenda of going back to the big leagues. If theres some team out there that would want my service? Yeah, of course, why not? But its not a goal. ... I can retire tomorrow or today, and I will be pleased with what Ive done.