- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Although the Los Angeles Dodgers still don't appear to be close to finalizing their coaching staff under new manager Don Mattingly, parts of it are beginning to come into focus.
Based on information compiled from various sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti wants to announce the entire staff at one time once it's finalized, it appears that Jeff Pentland is the front-runner to become the hitting coach, that pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Ken Howell will return and that Larry Bowa, the team's third-base coach for the past three seasons under Joe Torre, won't be back.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers' reason for giving the Milwaukee Brewers permission to interview Tim Wallach for their managerial vacancy -- Wallach met with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin in Phoenix last week -- but denying the Toronto Blue Jays permission to interview Wallach for theirs has become clear.
The contract Wallach signed earlier this month to become a member of the Dodgers' major league coaching staff after managing their Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate the past two seasons has a list of clubs with which he can talk to and a list of clubs with which he can't. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, Wallach was allowed to make those lists himself while negotiating the deal, which the source said was unusually beneficial to Wallach in terms of both length and financial compensation.
Because there are so many major league managerial openings this winter -- there were eight when the offseason began and there still are six -- the Dodgers didn't want Wallach to interview for all of them, presumably because that would have held up their effort to fill their coaching staff. So Wallach was asked to prioritize those eight clubs based on his level of interest before any of those teams even requested permission to talk to him.
It isn't clear how many teams are on the "can-talk-to'' list and how many are on the "can't-talk-to'' list. But the source said the Brewers and Blue Jays are the only teams that requested permission to speak with Wallach.
That means if Wallach isn't hired by the Brewers, who reportedly are interviewing about 10 candidates to replace Ken Macha, he will be part of the Dodgers' staff in 2010, probably as third-base coach. There remains a slight possibility Wallach will be Mattingly's bench coach, but the Dodgers still are hoping to find an experienced major league manager to fill that role because Mattingly has never managed before either in the minor or major leagues other than his current role as manager of the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. That job bears virtually no resemblance to managing a major league team during the season because the AFL exists primarily as a developmental program involving top prospects from every organization and features complex rules for how players must be used.
While Mattingly had served as the Dodgers' major league hitting coach since the 2008 All-Star break, Pentland, 62, had been one of the club's secondary hitting instructors, along with Manny Mota, since July 1, 2008. The Dodgers hired Pentland shortly after he was fired at midseason as hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners, a job he had held since 2005.
Longtime major league outfielder Chili Davis, meanwhile, a three-time All-Star during an 18-year career with five teams, is the leading candidate to fill the hitting instructor's role Pentland will vacate if he becomes the primary hitting coach. Davis has been working with Dodgers minor leaguers in the team's Arizona Instructional League program, which is held at the Dodgers' spring training complex in Glendale, Ariz., and concludes this weekend.
Davis, 50, has been out of baseball since his playing career ended after the 1999 season.
As of last weekend, Honeycutt hadn't yet accepted the Dodgers' offer, but he was expected to do so shortly. Howell said Saturday he still hadn't been given any official indication that the Dodgers were bringing him back, but the fact he had been in Arizona on official Dodgers business, observing players in both the Instructional League and the AFL, since the Dodgers' season ended is a strong indication they want him back.
There still is no indication what the Dodgers plan to do about a first-base coach. Mariano Duncan was told after the season, a month before his contract was to expire at the end of this month, that he was free to talk to other clubs, a pretty good indication the Dodgers don't plan to bring him back.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The Dodgers are making strides to pull their coaching staff together, sources say.