The Phillies will have their fifth different pitching coach in five seasons in 2021.
Bryan Price, on the job for just one season, phoned manager Joe Girardi at noon on Sunday and announced he was retiring.
"We were all shocked because he fit in so well," Girardi said Sunday night. "He was great to work with. Great attitude. The pitchers loved him. He connected with them extremely well. They don't get any better than Bryan.
"He decided it was time. You never know what's in someone's heart."
Price, 58, had two more years remaining on his contract. He said his decision was based solely on the desire to spend more time with his family in Phoenix, Arizona.
"It was clear to me by the end of the season and the weeks I've been home that I'm just done full-time on the field," Price said. "I miss my family. I've been taking them through this since 1991. They've been great and supportive. It just doesn't resonate with me anymore to spend this much time away from home.
"When you know it's time to go, you go. I have no reservations. I don't have the drive to stay on this schedule anymore."
Price's departure leaves the Phillies with two significant job openings. Matt Klentak was demoted from the general manager's position two weeks ago after the Phillies finished the 60-game season four games under .500. Ned Rice, Klentak's former assistant, is the interim GM. There is no firm timetable for hiring a permanent leader of baseball operations.
The Phillies had a historically bad bullpen in 2020. It recorded a 7.06 ERA, the worst by any big-league team in a season since 1930.
The performance did not drive Price away.
"If you completely tie your personal satisfaction with the success of a certain portion of your team, you'll drive yourself crazy," Price said. "This decision had nothing to do with performance. If we won the World Series, I don't think my decision would have been any different.
"It's not a performance-based decision. If that was the case, I'd be leaving with my tail between my legs and that's not the case at all. I admired the hard work those guys put in. We weren't good out of the 'pen and that should fall on me because our guys had histories of performing well.
"But I've been around long enough to know that had this been a 162-game season, they would have put together some good stretches. Given the nature of the season, we couldn't find a hot hand and that led to perpetual underperformance."
The season was shortened because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges created by the pandemic — and the possibility of more next season — did factor into Price's decision to retire. Due to concerns created by the health crisis, Price's wife, Judy, did not join him in Philadelphia this summer. Their 28th wedding anniversary was recognized long distance with a message on Phanavision.
"It started to hit me sitting in my apartment in Philadelphia all by myself," Price said. "I went from the apartment to the park, the park to the apartment. I felt very isolated. That was not the sole component of the decision, but it heightened my awareness of the time I was missing with my family.
"COVID has been extremely challenging for all of us. It accelerated this for me. It was a reminder of what it's like to be away from family. The inability for them to access me because of the limitations of the world we live in was difficult.
"And the unknown of where we're going with the COVID stuff and the possibility of more limitations in the future — being unable to spend time with family for three months is not something I want in the future again."
Price is very highly regarded throughout the industry. He was previously pitching coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. He also managed the Reds. Price left the door open to work again in baseball in a part-time role someday but said nothing was in the works nor was he looking for anything.
"I wish I could have contributed more," he said. "The Phillies were great to me. I'm apologetic for not completing my contract.
"But they need the best version of whoever is in this job and I'm more optimistic that will come from somebody other than me."
Girardi said he and Rice would begin talking about a replacement for Price this week. The Phillies have had four different pitching coaches the last four seasons, Bob McClure (2017), Rick Kranitz (2018), Chris Young (2019) and Price.
"This is an important position," Girardi said.
Girardi said communication skills, knowledge of pitching mechanics, the ability to quickly recognize mechanical breakdowns, and the ability to use analytics as an evaluation and coaching tool will be prioritized in the search for a new pitching coach. He said it was too soon to say if the Phils would go outside the organization or stay in-house. Dave Lundquist, who has been the assistant pitching coach for two seasons and before that worked for 11 seasons in the team's minor-league system, and Rafael Chaves, the organization's minor-league pitching coordinator and Seattle's former big-league pitching coach, would both bring continuity to the position.
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