Hinch happy to have first week past
New D-backs manager ready for focus to be on games
PHOENIX -- A week on the job as manager of the D-backs has not robbed A.J. Hinch of his sense of humor.
When he was asked recently what he had learned in his first taste of managing or coaching at any level, Hinch smiled and said, "Winning is a lot more fun than losing, though, I probably already knew that."
Unfortunately for Hinch and the D-backs, there have been more losses than wins since he took over for Bob Melvin last Friday. Arizona lost two out of three to the Nationals and was swept in a three-game series by the Reds.
Any thought that a change in managers was going to yield an instant boost on the field has gone by the wayside.
"I learned that we have our work cut out for us more in terms of taking a deep breath and getting back to simpler things," Hinch said. "There is no magic formula, there is no magic drill that we're going to do that is automatically going to correct this. But I think there is some semblance of spirit that we can rekindle that can make our results better by having a little more fun and taking a deep breath."
For a lot of the D-backs' young core of position players, there have been plenty of deep breaths as they experience yet another first in the big leagues -- playing for a new manager.
In addition to Hinch, the team also had to incorporate new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and hitting coach Jack Howell into the mix.
"It's tough changing staffs," third baseman Mark Reynolds said. "I know a lot of us in here have never been through that before. It's been hard on everybody, but hopefully we're going to turn this around. We need to do it quick."
At 34, Hinch is the youngest manager in the big leagues and he still has a full head of hair. Of course by the time this year is over, that could change -- especially if every week is as challenging as the first one.
First, there was the whirlwind day of Hinch's appointment, which included pointed questions directed at his boss, general manager Josh Byrnes. Then there was Hinch's daily obligation of meeting twice with the media in a group setting, not to mention the requests for one-on-one television and radio interviews. Given the unique circumstances of his ascension, there has been a lot of national attention on him as well.
"I guess after the initial atmosphere on Friday, the amount of momentum that's carried on past the first series, I'm so eager to get to the baseball, the on-field stuff," Hinch said. "I guess I didn't know how long it would take to get through the newness of this. I do want our message to get out, but I'm anxious for this to get off the topic of me and onto the topic of improvements."
The roster has been in flux as well this week, with outfielder Gerrardo Parra being called up from Double-A along with Wednesday's starter, Bryan Augentstein. Reliever Clay Zavada was up for a day before being sent back to Double-A.
"Wild is definitely one way to describe it," catcher Chris Snyder said of the week. "You've got players coming and going and changes in the staff. It's going to take some time for everything to sink in and get it going."
Hinch has had to deal in his share of on-field issues as well during the week.
There was second baseman Felipe Lopez not running hard on a ball to first and some mental lapses in the field by Eric Byrnes and Chris Young along with some missed signs. Hinch, though, said he feels like the effort has been there.
"The trying part of this, the work-hard part of this, that's all here," Hinch said. "Now, I think, it's more of the application of what we're trying to do to avoid mental errors, to be ready and drive in the runs that are given to us with a runner on third with less than two outs. And find a way to get that rekindled spirit of passion and remember this is baseball. ... We want to have fun and a little bounce in our step."
One thing is for sure, Hinch has the complete backing of Byrnes.
"I believe strongly in A.J.," Byrne said prior to Wednesday's game. "We all want to win, we all want to start winning as soon as we can. The reality is there will be skeptics and believers at this point, so we'd like to turn the skeptics into believers."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.