FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — It took Ron Roenicke almost five years to get another chance as a major league manager.
He’ll need to wait at least until next week for “permanency.”
The Red Sox made Roenicke their interim manager Tuesday, promoting the former Brewers skipper to replace Alex Cora on the day Boston’s pitchers and catchers reported for the start of spring training.
Although there is no expiration date on Roenicke’s tenure, the interim tag will stay until Major League Baseball completes its investigation into whether the Red Sox engaged in illegal sign-stealing during their 2018 World Series championship season. If the probe clears Roenicke, who has denied being part of any rules violations, he is expected to stay.
“We felt that naming Ron our interim manager was the best way to respect the investigation that’s ongoing into our 2018 club. But we feel very strongly about Ron’s ability to lead this group and how well-suited he is for this task,” Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said in a news conference on the eve of the team’s first formal workout.
“We have no reason to think that there is anything that would cause an adverse result for Ron in this investigation,” Bloom said. “We’re going to respect the ongoing investigation and we’ll address permanency once it’s complete.”
Just one year after winning the World Series in his first season in Boston, Cora was let go when Commissioner Rob Manfred named him as a ringleader behind the Astros’ 2017 illegal sign-stealing. The Red Sox have maintained that there was no similar scheme after Cora took over in Boston the next year.
Manfred said last week that he hoped to have the Red Sox investigation completed before the start of spring training. But a person with knowledge of the probe said Tuesday the investigation will continue at least into next week. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because there was no formal announcement.
Red Sox pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday and have their first workout Wednesday. Rather than open spring training without a manager, the team gave the job to Roenicke — for now.
General manager Brian O’Halloran said the team heard from people inside and outside the organization who spoke highly of Roenicke.
“I know you did a lot of background check on me,” Roenicke said. “I’m glad it turned out well.”
Roenicke, 63, takes over a team that is dealing with the fallout not only from the cheating investigation but also the salary dump of onetime AL MVP Mookie Betts and Cy Young winner David Price.
“You don’t replace Mookie Betts, who is one of the best players in the game. David Price … you don’t replace him. But you move forward,” Roenicke said. “This team, they’re focused on what they can do and showing people wrong.
“This is a really good ballclub. There are some tremendous athletes on this team,” he said. “And you hope that the guys you replace them with become great players. And whether it’s this year, whether it’s a few years. You just keep moving on.”
After winning a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and the World Series in 2018, Cora’s first year, the Red Sox followed that up by missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“We’re very disappointed — as all these players are — in what happened last year,” Roenicke said. “And our focus is to try to get back in the playoffs, and seeing what happens after that.”
Roenicke spent five years as the Brewers manager from 2010-15, winning 96 games and the NL Central title in his first season and finishing as runner-up for NL manager of the year. In all, he led Milwaukee to a 342-331 record in five seasons.
“Right away, I thought I would” get another chance, Roenicke said. “But then as years go by you, you kind of wonder about it.”
Roenicke batted .238 with 17 homers and 113 RBIs as an outfielder and pinch hitter with six teams from 1981-88. The younger brother of major-leaguer Gary Roenicke, he went on to coach in the Dodgers and Angels systems before taking over the Brewers in the 2011 season.
“Whether it’s a good season, which I had my first year, or whether it’s a poor season, which we had my last year there, you’re still learning things. And all the time I’m thinking about, ‘What could I have done better?’” he said. ”“I want to do this job better.”