Devil Rays hire Zimmer as adviser

Updated: January 10, 2004, 2:51 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Don Zimmer is happy to be back in baseball -- if not the dugout -- after leaving the New York Yankees because of a strained relationship with owner George Steinbrenner.

Zimmer was hired Friday as an adviser by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who will have him in uniform as a coach for spring training and pregame workouts at home games and on select road trips during the regular season.

Zimmer, who turns 73 on Jan. 17, has been in baseball 55 years -- 33 as a major league coach or manager. He spent the last eight seasons as bench coach for Yankees manager Joe Torre and is grateful for the opportunity to continue his career just a few miles from his Treasure Island home.

He said if he hadn't received a job from the Devil Rays, or another team he did not identify, he would have officially retired. He will not be in the dugout during games because Tampa Bay already has a full coaching staff.

"It's a good feeling to be wanted," Zimmer, who left New York after complaining Steinbrenner treated him unkindly, said during a conference call.

"I left because I wanted to leave. Still, it's not the way you want to say goodbye to somebody, except him. It was tough leaving the Yankees, but I just had enough. I left because of him and no other reason."

With the Devil Rays, Zimmer will hold the title of senior baseball adviser and will assist the team in community affairs. He said he had always taken some ribbing from friends about his title.

"I've never been nothing but a broken down coach," joked Zimmer, who managed 13 seasons in the majors, compiling an 885-858 (.508) record with the Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and Cubs.

He also managed the Yankees the first 36 games (21-15) of the 1999 season when Torre was recovering from prostate cancer. He owns six World Series rings -- four as a coach with the Yankees, and two as a player for Brooklyn in 1955 and Los Angeles in 1959.

"Don brings a tremendous amount of experience to our

organization," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said.

Zimmer's falling out with Steinbrenner wasn't the only spat that landed Zimmer in the headlines last season.

In Game 3 of the AL championship series, Zimmer was involved in a melee in which he was tossed to the ground by Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez. Zimmer tearfully apologized the next day for his actions and was fined $5,000 by major league baseball.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press