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Star power added to coaching staff

By: Warren Mayes


Oquendo [Lou Countryman photo]

The St. Louis Cardinals shook up their coaching staff after back-to-back years of not reaching the postseason. The hope is that St. Louis has re-energized its staff by adding two ex-Cardinals players and a well-respected pitching coach for 2018.

Manager Mike Matheny recognized the need for changes after an 83-win season.

“We need to be growing,” Matheny said. “We need to be constantly searching for excellence, and I think as you bring in great people, you create an atmosphere where that’s more likely to happen.”

José Oquendo is the new third base coach. Willie McGee will serve in a myriad of roles. Mike Maddux is the new pitching coach and former third base coach Mike Shildt is the new bench coach. Bryan Eversgerd, the Cardinals Triple-A pitching coach, has been promoted to bullpen coach.

“We feel that by bringing in the experience, past successes and baseball savvy these three gentlemen [Oquendo, McGee and Maddux] possess our major league coaching staff will be a strong benefit to our ballclub,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said. “Whether it’s coaching, teaching, game analysis, game planning, these three men bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team.”

Oquendo, 54, who had stepped aside as the team’s third base coach just prior to the 2016 season due to health reasons, returns to the major league staff after serving as special assistant to the general manager in 2017.

Oquendo spent 16 seasons as the Cardinals third base coach [2000-15] and was the team’s major league bench coach in 1999 after spending the 1997 and 1998 seasons working in the farm system for St. Louis. The “secret weapon” enjoyed a 17-year professional playing career, including stints in the majors with the New York Mets [1983-84] and St. Louis Cardinals [1986-1995]. He was voted as the top utility man on the All-Busch Stadium II team in 2005.

A native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, Oquendo served as manager for Puerto Rico in both the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics and for the World Team in the 2009 MLB Futures Game.

Oquendo, who has had two operations on his left knee and both micro-fracture surgery and a replacement procedure on his right, said he came back largely because Mozeliak and Matheny asked him to return. He said it was an easy decision.

“I really missed being out there [at third base],” Oquendo said, noting that he wants to “see if we can win some games and get back in the playoffs.”

McGee, 59, joins the major league coaching staff for the first time, having spent the 2013-17 seasons serving as a special assistant to the general manager.

A member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame, McGee enjoyed a banner career that included National League MVP honors in 1985, two league batting titles [1985 and 1990], four All-Star Game selections [1983, 1985, 1987 and 1988] and three Rawlings Gold Glove awards [1983, 1985 and 1986].

After breaking onto the scene in a big way during the Cardinals World Series win in 1982, the switch-hitting McGee went on to spend 18 years in the majors with the Cardinals [1982-90 and 1996-99], Oakland A’s [1990], San Francisco Giants [1991-94] and Boston Red Sox [1995], accumulating 2,254 hits, 352 stolen bases and a .295 career batting mark.

“If you’ve held Willie McGee on a high pedestal, I’ll tell you that you haven’t built it high enough,” Matheny said. “He’s such a sneaky teacher. He’ll tell you something, and it has so much wisdom to it. He doesn’t waste words. He doesn’t waste people’s time.”

McGee will be away from his eight grandchildren this summer, but his 15-year-old son and his wife of more than 30 years, Vivian, will spend time with him in St. Louis this summer. He said he’s glad to be a coach for the Cardinals.

“It’s always been in me as a ‘giver,’” McGee said. “I’ve got all this experience baseball-wise and life-wise in me to give back. They can call me at 8 o’clock at night and I can try to get a key to get down here [to the Cardinals facility] and help them do what they want to do to be better as a baseball player.”

Maddux, 56, most recently was with the Washington Nationals, where he held the same position for the past two seasons. Over the past 15 seasons, he also served as pitching coach of the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers.

Prior to moving into a coaching role, Maddux, the older brother of Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, pitched 15 years in the majors with nine organizations.

With the Nationals, Maddux guided the pitching staff to a 3.69 ERA during his two seasons – fourth-best in the majors over that span – while the starters’ ERA was 3.61, which ranked second only to the Cubs. With 2016 Cy Young Award winner and Parkway Central graduate Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in the rotation, the Nationals averaged 9.08 strikeouts per nine innings under Maddux’s watch.

Mozeliak said hiring Maddux was an easy choice. “He always seems to get the most out of his pitchers. It was a no-brainer,” Mozeliak said.

Maddux replaced Derek Lilliquist, whose contract with the Cardinals was not renewed after St. Louis failed to make the postseason for the second consecutive season – the first time that has happened since 2007-08.

Maddux said he is glad to be with the organization.

“I was flattered when they reached out,” Maddux said. “I’ve always looked at the Cardinals as the Yankees of the National League. They were always the team everyone wanted to beat because they were always beating everybody else.”

Shildt, 48, who has been a member of the Cardinals organization since 2004, spent last season serving as the team’s quality control coach and third base coach.

Shildt, who managed for eight seasons in the Cardinals farm system at Memphis [2015-16], Springfield [2012-14] and Johnson City [2009-2011], was voted the recipient of the highly distinguished George Kissell Award in 2010, which honors excellence in player development.

Eversgerd, 48, spent the past five seasons as pitching coach for Triple-A Memphis following stints with Double-A Springfield [2008-09 and 2011-12] and several Class A affiliates.

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