BOSTON — Their pitching coach was under their nose the whole time.
The Red Sox announced on Nov. 2 that Dana LeVangie would reprise his role as bullpen coach in 2018 under new manager Alex Cora. Six days later, LeVangie — the bullpen coach for five years under former John Farrell — has been elevated to pitching coach, replacing Carl Willis.
The 48-year-old LeVangie drew interest from other organizations this winter and could wind up a bench coach and then a manager someday. So far, he’s only known one organization: the 2018 season will be his 28th with the Sox.
Cora had no desire to let LeVangie go anywhere else, either.
"Very impressed with Dana since when I played here," Cora said Wednesday. "He understands the game. Seems like we talk the same language as far as the game. When everyone started talking about me being a manager, he was a guy I always considered would be part of my staff. He is well prepared and versatile enough that he can work with catchers and be a pitching coach."
Born in Brockton and currently an East Bridgewater resident, LeVangie has stayed in the area the whole time. He went to college first at Cape Cod Community before transferring to American International.
The Sox drafted LeVangie in the 14th round in 1991. He played in the Sox system for six years, reaching as high as Triple-A. From 1997-2004 he was the Sox' major league bullpen catcher. Then he was a pro scout for a year, and a major league advance scout for seven, through 2012.
“I guess being a local kid, being a Red Sox fan growing up, having a not-so-successful high school career but [being] more successful in my college days, getting drafted by the Boston Red Sox, playing six years in the minor leagues, going into my 28th year — it’s been an incredible ride,” LeVangie said. “I’ve done a lot of things for the team. I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve served in.
“This is something I didn't envision myself doing. But I think my experience throughout the game, experience dealing with the players has grown throughout my time and I guess more than anything my commitment to the players, my commitment to the pitchers just continues to drive me to be the best [person i can to put these pitchers and players in position to have success. It keeps going forward and I’m just happy for the opportunity.”
What makes LeVangie a rarity is his catching background. Most pitching coaches were, well, pitchers.
LeVangie might not have learned more at any other time in his career than when he was the bullpen catcher.
“It allowed me to really lock in on mechanics, movement of the baseball, spin of the baseball, identifying specifics of a pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses,” LeVangie said. “And trying to identify what makes a pitcher have success and continued success. So, I think back in the day I started to learn that. I’ll continue to learn more as we go forward, but, you know, I’ve learned a lot from Jason [Varitek] throughout the days of my time here, communicating with him. But you know I think our, as baseball coaches as baseball people, we use our eyes. The eyes usually tell us a lot of the things we want to know and our eyes will tell us a lot of the information that’s out now: spin rates and movement and how we can make these guys successful. So I don’t think it’s going to be a big adjustment, but it’s something I’ve worked hard at: trying to identify things sooner rather than later. So it will be an easier adjustment for me.”
Cora said the Sox are considering internal and external candidates to fill the bullpen coach vacancy, the lone one remaining on the staff.
Brian Bannister remains in the organization, but Cora did not specify whether Bannister will be in uniform again next year. Bannister's most recent title was dual: vice President of pitching development and assistant pitching coach. He's a pitch data expert as well as an ex-big leaguer.