Former GM Ruben Amaro Jr.: Coaching for Red Sox satisfies 'itch'

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have had Hall of Famers as coaches. Bobby Doerr. Jim Rice. Kiki Cuyler. Hugh Duffy. Earle Combs.

They’ve had batting champions (Pete Runnels) and stolen base leaders (Tommy Harper), Gold Glovers (Dwight Evans) and hitting gurus (Walt Hriniak).

They’ve had hometown guys (Johnny Pesky, Joe Morgan, Richie Hebner) and former Yankees (Combs, Herb Pennock, Dick Berardino, Mike Stanley).

They’ve had a Rooster (Burleson), a Goose (Gregson), a Gerbil (Zimmer), a Heinie (Wagner), a Barber (Maglie), a Pops (Popowski) and a Stinger (Stange). They’ve even had a spy (Moe Berg).

What they’ve never had, until now, is a former general manager electing to return to the field after 17 seasons in the front office, the last seven as GM of the Philadelphia Phillies, who went to the World Series in 2009 when he was boss.

It’s something, Ruben Amaro Jr. said Monday, he couldn’t resist. Which is why, when Red Sox manager John Farrell, an old teammate from their days playing in Cleveland, called about 8 to 10 days ago to gauge Amaro’s interest, Farrell’s phone rang at 8:30 the next morning.

“I guess it is unusual,’’ Amaro said in a conference call Monday, “but for me, I’ve always had kind of an itch to be back on the field.’’

Farrell understands that urge. He was in Cleveland’s front office as director of player development when Terry Francona invited him to put the uniform back on as Red Sox pitching coach in 2007.

“That fire never really goes out,’’ Farrell said.

Amaro, who was relieved of his duties as Phillies GM in September after the team’s second straight last-place finish and fourth straight without a postseason appearance, said he bounced the idea off a few folks before making the move. His family, obviously. Former Angels shortstop and close friend Gary DiSarcina (who also managed in the Sox system) was one. Terry Francona. Mentors such as Pat Gillick and Ed Wade, who first hired him in Philly.

“A whole slew of people,’’ he said. “At the end of the day, I felt like this opportunity doesn’t arrive all that often. I’ve been thinking about getting back on the field in some capacity. My current goal is to help the Red Sox get to be where they need to be.’’

The move by a GM back onto the field is not without precedent, but the transition typically involves becoming manager, which was the case in Miami this past season, when GM Dan Jennings was asked by owner Jeffrey Loria to take over after Mike Redmond was fired as manager. Jennings is returning to the front office, and the Marlins are looking for another manager.

Amaro, who is 50, has expressed an interest in managing, though he downplayed that notion Monday, saying his focus for the time being was on coaching. He also will serve as the team’s outfield coach and base-running instructor.

Farrell said it’s a plus that Amaro would like to manage one day.

“Intelligent, and a goal-driven, goal-oriented person,’’ Farrell said of the Stanford-educated Amaro (degree in biology). “You want that eagerness, and you want that type of personality to be part of your staff. He’s going to help us create an atmosphere for our players that is very positive and upbeat.’’

Amaro played eight seasons as a reserve outfielder in the big leagues with the Angels, Indians and Phillies (two go-rounds). He and his dad are the only father-son playing combination in Phillies history.

He said he already has lost 10 pounds this offseason and not only does he plan on throwing BP, he noted that he is ambidextrous, which came as a surprise to Farrell.

Amaro replaces Arnie Beyeler, who served as first-base coach for the last three seasons. Beyeler, widely respected in the game, was let go to satisfy new president Dave Dombrowski’s desire to have a “different mix” on the coaching staff. Amaro is a Philadelphia native; his father was originally from Mexico.