Fredi Gonzalez managed the Florida Marlins from 2007-2010 and the Atlanta Braves from 2011-2016, compiling a 710-692 record. Now, Gonzalez has entered into a new phase of his career: helping a former pupil.
In December, the Orioles announced that Gonzalez would take the role of major-league coach with the club. Though the Orioles technically have no bench coach, Gonzalez told The Bat Around With Stan “The Fan” Charles Jan. 18 that he’ll be manager Brandon Hyde’s “right-hand man” during the 2020 season.
Hyde was in the Marlins’ organization when Gonzalez was the major-league manager. Hyde was a minor-league manager in the Marlins’ farm system from 2005-2009, then became the major-league team’s bench coach in June 2010 after Gonzalez was dismissed. Gonzalez also knew Orioles major-league field coordinator and catching instructor Tim Cossins from his days with the Marlins.
“You look back: Cossins is there, Hyder’s there and I’m the major-league manager. I’m watching these two young men work and do everything that we ask,” Gonzalez said. “Brandon did Double-A manager, Triple-A manager, farm director, rover. You can tell talent. He wants to do it, he’s talented and he’s energetic. His communication skills are off the charts. He’s passionate.”
Gonzalez, 55, and Hyde, 46, have kept in touch throughout the years, and Gonzalez made sure to check in on him during the Orioles’ 55-108 season in 2019.
“I kept an eye on him and how he’s doing,” Gonzalez said. “I would check with him a little bit and check with Cossins because I know that losing  games, it’s tough. But my understanding in talking to people is that he handled it about as good as you can handle it.”
Gonzalez was the Marlins’ third base coach from 2017-2019 but stepped down from his role on Don Mattingly’s staff after the 2019 season. Gonzalez, who explained he was looking for a position that was a bit more “challenging,” said he interviewed for positions with the New York Mets and Orioles before reconnecting for good with Hyde.
Gonzalez said the Orioles’ big-league staff recently had a “retreat” in Sarasota to get to know one another — bullpen coach Darren Holmes and first base coach Anthony Sanders are also new to the staff — as well as talk about the team and goals for this year. He was also taken aback by the Orioles’ facility in Sarasota, Fla.
“It was really fun. I’ve been in the major leagues 20 years with Atlanta and with Miami, and the complex they have there at Sarosota is like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It’s gorgeous,” Gonzalez said. “… It is a state-of-the-art complex down in Sarosota for the players. I’m really excited about going down there the 10th of February and getting going.”
On his way to the airport to get to Sarasota, Gonzalez was listening to MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM and heard Orioles first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini, who appeared for an hour Jan. 15 as part of the network’s “Players Week.” Mancini hit .291/.364/.535 during his age-27 season in 2019 and was one of the bright spots on a last-place team.
Mancini also emerged as one of the team’s faces of the rebuilding effort and in the community. Gonzalez was impressed with what he heard from Mancini.
“This guy is impressive. I can’t wait to sit down and talk to him,” Gonzalez said. “This young man is everything you want, and I don’t know anything about him other than his name. The first thing when I saw Hyder when I first got to Sarasota, ‘Tell me a little about Trey Mancini,’ because he was unbelievable on the radio.
“He answered all the questions, he didn’t shy away from any of the questions, he spoke well. He was a guy that you’re proud for him to be a Baltimore Oriole. And he goes, ‘Fredi, you’re going to love Trey Mancini. He is the guy that we can build around here.'”
Beyond Mancini, there are plenty of Orioles who are looking to continue making their mark in the major leagues. Catchers Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco, infielders Hanser Alberto and Rio Ruiz, outfielders Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, designated hitter Renato Nunez and pitchers John Means and Hunter Harvey are among those in their mid-to-late 20s looking to build on their 2019 season and carve out a regular major-league role long term.
Gonzalez says the Orioles can give players ample opportunity to develop without sacrificing a winning culture. Gonzalez mentioned the club’s late-inning struggles in particular as an area in which the Orioles can get better.
“Talking to Brandon a little bit, he’s going to be patient with these guys and also create culture of, ‘OK guys, we’re going to be patient, but we’re still going to try to win every single game that we can win,'” Gonzalez said. “… Let’s close out games. I think there’s a way to develop and create a winning culture in the major leagues. I think that’s what Brandon — this is his second year in — and some of the conversation we had in this little minicamp that we got together, I think that’s going to be the next step.”
To hear more from Gonzalez, including embracing analytics and managing Nick Markakis in Atlanta, listen to the full show here. Gonzalez’s interview starts at the 19:35 mark:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Miami Marlins