Managing the Future of the Toronto Blue Jays


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After taking a look at possible Pleasant Surprises 2014, I started thinking about the people who would be responsible for mentoring Marcus Stroman and the rest of the Toronto Blue Jays future players. So, here is a quick look* at the resumes of the coaching staff for the Toronto Blue Jays’ AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.

Manager: Gary Allenson (replacing Marty Brown)

As a Player:

Drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1976, Gary Allenson served as catcher (more of a backup role) from 1979-1984. He played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985.

As a Coach/ Manager:

1987- managed in the New York Yankees system leading  the Oneonta Yankees to the New York- Penn League championship (1988)

1989- managed in the Red Sox organization for two seasons.

1992/93- Boston promoted him as bullpen coach.

1994- Red Sox moved him to third base coach.

1996- managed Charleston RiverDogs (then Texas Rangers)

1997- managed Jackson Generals (Houston Astros)

1998/99- managed Louisville Redbirds and RiverBats (then Milwaukee Brewers)

2000-2002- First base coach and third base coach for Milwaukee Brewers.

2003-2010- several managerial positions for affiliates of the Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles.

2010-Baltimore Orioles brought him up to coach third base when Juan Samuel became interim manager.

2011-returned to manage the Norfolk Tides of the International League

2012-manager of the Aberdeen IronBirds (Baltimore’s Short Season Class A team)

2013- managed the New Hampshire FisherCats (Toronto Blue Jays) to a 68-72 record.

2014- Buffalo Bisons manager

In his Introductory Press Conference Allenson gives an air of no nonsense. This could be good for developing players. This approach could mean no coddling players. He called the International League a “man’s league” referring to cold, windy weather conditions. The fact that he would state in his first press conference what he believes Sean Nolin needs to work on tells me that he possesses a straight, to the point approach. I’ve always been a fan of managers and coaches that do not walk on egg shells around players. I guess it helps toughen them up. Hopefully, his approach gives players firm guidance and prepares them for the next stage. Having said that, I would love to see how Allenson handles Munenori Kawasaki‘s “bubbly” personality. With a bevy of younger players who are hungry to bang down the door of the big league club like Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin and others as well as some coming back from injuries like Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Allenson is going to have an interesting job. If players are hungry, they’ll have to listen to a manager who seems to have no trouble giving advice. My favorite quote from him thus far is “You have to know which pitchers to give a pat on the butt  and which ones to kick.”

Hitting Coach: Richie Hebner (replacing Jon Nunnally)

As a Player:

Richie Hebner was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st round (15th) in 1966. Hebner had a 17 year career mostly as a first and third baseman. Making his debut in Sept. 1968 at the age of 20, he played for the Pirates, Phillies, Tigers, Mets and Cubs before calling it a career at the age of 37. Hebner managed to compile a career line of.276/.352/.438 with 203HR and 890RBI.

As a Coach/ Manager:

1987- managed the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays and was brought up to be the first base coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. But, he quickly moved over to the Boston Red Sox (maybe it was his “dream job”) as hitting coach and was there until 1991.

1992- minor league hitting instructor for the Toronto Blue Jays.

1995- in March he was a coach for the Syracuse Chiefs and promoted to manager in June.

1998- coach for the Nashville Sound (Pittsburgh Pirates AAA)

2000- manager for the Nashville Sound

2001- hitting coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.

2002- AAA hitting coach for the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays)

2006- hitting coach for AA Birmingham Barons (Chicago White Sox)

2010- hitting coach for Norfolk Tides

2013- hitting coach for New Hampshire FisherCats

2014- Buffalo Bisons hitting coach

With the successful career that Hebner has had and the experience he has gained playing on some pretty good teams (like the 1971 World Champion Pirates) one would think that he has a lot to share with young players. Depending on how the big league club shakes out, he could have some interesting players to work with. Since Moises Sierra is out of options, I’d guess that Kevin Pillar will be heading back to the Bisons. I’d really like to see his bat come alive. Maybe Hebner can help Pillar force the Blue Jays into a tough decision.

Pitching Coach: Randy St. Claire (replacing Bob Stanley)

As a Player:

Signed by the Montreal Expos in 1978, St Claire made his debut in 1984 as a 24 year old. He went on to play 10 seasons as a relief pitcher for the Expos (’84-’88), Reds (’88), Twins (’89), Braves (’91-’92),and Blue Jays (’94). St Claire compiled a career 12-6 record and an ERA of 4.14.

 As a Coach/ Manager:

2002-He was pitching coach for the Montreal Expos/ Washington Nationals

2009-Miami Marlins pitching coach

2014- Buffalo Bisons pitching coach

Randy St. Claire is no stranger to the game. His father was a big league catcher (Ebba St. Claire) and his brother also had a minor league career. For me, this might be the most interesting job of the three Bisons positions. St. Claire will have a large number of pitchers to work with that are thought to be valuable pieces to the future of the Toronto Blue Jays. Again, depending on how Spring Training goes (and the remaining days of free agency), St. Claire could have Hutchison, Drabek, Stroman, Nolin and more. He won’t have aging stop gaps like Chien-Ming Wang to worry about. Instead, he’ll have young studs chomping at the bit to take the Roger’s Centre mound. Will he be able to solidify Drabek’s mechanics? Oh, wait! What if he can fix Ricky Romero?! Alright, I know. But, it would be nice, right? It might be a more pivotal position than we realize. It’ll be an exciting one to watch. Will he be able to provide the right mentorship for these young guns? Each will require a different approach. Will he be able to do as his manager requires and pat or kick the right butts? I can’t wait to find out.


*Information gathered from Wikipedia, Baseball Reference and Buffalo Bisons’ team site