Leaving the visitor’s clubhouse after a game a few years ago, Rick Renteria took a few steps outside Wrigley Field and turned to tell a friend, “I feel like I’m going to be here some day.’’
That day has arrived, as Renteria will be named the Cubs’ manager today.
The selection of Renteria, 51, crystallized after a search to replace Dale Sveum took more than 5 weeks. The Cubs were unsuccessful in attempting to talk to Joe Girardi, who re-signed with the Yankees for four more seasons.
“This comes at a time he’s ready to relish and embrace the challenge,” Padres manager Bud Black said of Renteria, who served as one of his coaches for the last six seasons.
Renteria, who is recovering from hip surgery, impressed Cubs officials during multiple interviews in southern California. Renteria was chosen over former major league managers A.J. Hinch, Eric Wedge and Manny Acta, as well as Rays coach Dave Martinez.
The Cubs weren’t allowed an opportunity after the World Series to interview Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, as the Red Sox stood firm in an agreement they had with the Cubs that President Theo Epstein couldn’t take any employees to Chicago from Boston during a 3-year period that started after the 2011 season.
A source familiar with both sides said the Red Sox suspected the Cubs went through backdoor channels to lure their then-general manager from them, and were adamant about sticking with the 3-year ban.
Renteria remained a strong candidate before Lovullo’s stock rose with the Red Sox’s ascent to winning the World Series. In fact, he interviewed for managerial openings with the Mariners and Tigers.
Renteria, who received a 3-year guaranteed deal, is viewed as a mild-mannered instructor who fits Epstein’s preference for a manager who provides “love before tough love.” The Cubs are hopeful Renteria, a bilingual southern California native, can connect with their younger players in whom they have invested heavily. It’s one reason why Renteria’s contract includes 2 option years.
“Whatever I gave him, he handled,” Black said. “He also wasn’t afraid to come to me and say, ‘What about this?’
“I always thought of Rick as a very solid first lieutenant. He knows what is ahead of him. He was a very valued member of our organization for a long time.”
Those who have worked with Renteria have been impressed with his passion for improving players and for showing no signs of bitterness that he never fulfilled his promise as a player. An executive who worked with Renteria with the Marlins said he was being groomed to become their major league manager until the franchise was sold in 2002.
His teaching skills run deeper than his eight seasons managing in the minor league systems of the Marlins (1998-2001) and Padres (2004-07).
It’s unlikely Renteria will bring any coaches from the Padres with him. Pitching coach Chris Bosio, who kept the ERA of a mercurial pitching staff below 4.00 until the final day of the season, would seem likely to return.
But the rest of the staff likely will be comprised of teaching coaches – some of them fluent in Spanish – who can make a positive impact on the likes of Castro, as well as top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
Born: Dec. 25, 1961
Hometown: Harbor City, Calif.
Playing career: Batted .237 with 4 HRs and 41 RBIs in 184 games over 5 seasons as an infielder with Pirates (1986), Mariners (1987-88) and Marlins (1993-94).
Coaching career: Marlins minor league system (1998-2001), Padres minor league system (2003-07), Padres assistant (2008-10), Padres bench coach (2011-13)
FYI: Coached Team Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. … Fluent in Spanish. … 20th overall pick in 1980 MLB Draft.