Over the past few years, he’s had chances to leave his post as the hitting coach at Single-A Charleston –– the Yankees’ affiliate –– for a promotion. But the incentive wasn’t enough for the 43-year-old to uproot his family from South Carolina and bolt.
When the job opened up in Boston, Colbrunn was intrigued by the prospect of reuniting with ex-Diamondbacks coach and current Red Sox third-base coach Brian Butterfield, as well as moving closer to his wife’s hometown in Connecticut.
Colbrunn, who played 13 seasons in the majors with seven different teams, understands the need to adjust his coaching style. But he expressed confidence in his ability to tailor his tutoring methods from Single-A to the big leagues.
“When you’re in [Single-A], you’re going through mechanical adjustments, work ethic and trying to build a foundation,” Colbrunn said. “When you’re dealing with big leaguers, they’ve gone through that process –– they have their styles and repetitions. They have a real good idea of how to hit and a lot of it becomes more mental than it does physical.”
From Red Sox manager John Farrell‘s perspective, he was searching for a candidate that had strong communication skills in addition to a solid hitting pedigree from his playing days.
“As we went through the interview process, it became very clear that not only does [Colbrunn] have a wealth of knowledge as far as hitting goes, but the ability to relate,” Farrell said. “In that interview process, it felt like that would certainly carry over to dealing with our hitters.
“His fundamental approach to hitting is aligned with what we value,” he added. “All things considered, this became a very clear choice as we went through that process.”
Farrell was particularly impressed with Colbrunn’s hitting philosophy. During the interview process, Colbrunn preached the importance of grinding out at-bats and compiling what he called “professional” at-bats.
Under former hitting coach Dave Magadan –– who took the same position with the Rangers –– the Red Sox initially embraced that style, making a conscious effort to work the count to wear down opposing pitchers.
Last season, however, the club’s hitters strayed away from the approach and became more impatient at the plate. That’s why Farrell tapped Colbrunn to help the Red Sox return to that philosophy.
“Our goal is to get to the point where we are grinding out at-bats,” Farrell said. “We are hopefully getting to that bullpen in those middle innings, whether that’s the fifth, sixth or seventh inning –– to potentially exploit the weakness of a given club.”
In the meantime, Colbrunn plans to study up on pitchers in the American League –– for game planning purposes –– and spend time with Boston’s sluggers this offseason in an attempt to learn their methods.
“The biggest thing is getting to know the starting pitchers, the pitchers throughout the American League,” Colbrunn said. “Spending six years in A-ball, you don’t really get a chance to sit around and watch that many [major league] games. So getting to know the pitchers, their tendencies, learning our hitters and building relationships with our hitters is the most important thing.”
And he’ll start that process immediately.
Photo via Twitter/@BeachCarolina