Bochy thrilled for new challenge of managing Giants

Saturday, October 28th 2006, 7:39 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Even Bruce Bochy had a tough time realizing what had taken place in a matter of only a week.

No wonder. What a whirlwind.

He was manager of the San Diego Padres one day, then San Francisco's new skipper the next _ and it's just not every day someone takes his team to the playoffs in two straight seasons then skips town for a division rival.

``This happened fast, believe me,'' Bochy said when formally introduced by the Giants on Friday at San Francisco's waterfront ballpark. ``It's not like I was looking for a change. I never gave it a thought until a week ago.''

That's when Giants general manager Brian Sabean informally mentioned the possibility of Bochy coming to the Bay Area as Felipe Alou's successor.

Bochy formally interviewed Thursday and agreed late that night to a three-year contract worth roughly $6 million. Fittingly, Bochy's opening-day opponent in April will be the Padres, his employer the past 24 years.

After guiding San Diego to consecutive division titles, Bochy's task now is to turn the Giants back into a contender after two ``off track'' seasons by his assessment.

``I look forward to this challenge,'' he said. ``I made a commitment to myself and to my wife that if we were to make a change, it would be with an organization that would be a cultural fit for me, where I would be comfortable and where there was potential to build real chemistry between myself and the front office.

``It would be a place where I would have a chance to make an impact and a contribution. That's why I'm sitting here today. That's the only reason I'd leave San Diego.''

Normally, Major League Baseball frowns upon major announcements during the World Series, but the Giants were excused because Bochy is set to leave Monday for Japan with a team of major leaguers.

Bochy was the only candidate to replace Alou who has previous major league managerial experience, something Sabean preferred.

Bochy had one year left on his contract in San Diego but was told he would not receive an extension now, and was allowed to explore other options. He and Sabean had an informal conversation about the job last weekend after the GM spoke extensively to Padres general manager Kevin Towers about the possibility of hiring Bochy away.

``As he became available and expressed his sincere interest in coming to San Francisco as a priority, we accelerated those talks,'' Sabean said. ``We're thrilled to get him in uniform after a long process we believe was very thorough. ... This is a solid move for the organization and the right move at this point in time.''

Bochy, known as a great communicator with his players, beamed as he held up his new No. 15 San Francisco jersey. After addressing the media, he was whisked away for a lunch reception with Giants staff. The stadium's main center-field scoreboard screamed, ``A Giant Welcome to Bruce Bochy!'' and the skipper did a photo shoot on the field.

``It's nice to get this done with an outstanding manager,'' Giants owner Peter Magowan said.

The Giants had only a seven-day window to reach an agreement with Bochy because he was employed by another team. The Padres will not receive any compensation from San Francisco.

``There will be some competitive juices flowing on opening day,'' Towers said.

The 51-year-old Bochy, who just finished his 12th season as the Padres' manager, led San Diego to back-to-back NL West titles and is the winningest manager in franchise history. He spent the last 24 years in the organization, dating to his playing days as a catcher.

It wasn't an easy decision to leave a team he helped build into a winner.

``We won 88 games _ or they won 88 games, as I should say now,'' Bochy said.

Bochy was due to make $1.9 million in guaranteed money in 2007 from the Padres, so his new deal is a raise. Under Bochy, San Diego made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time, but was eliminated in the first round for the second straight year by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Giants first baseman Mark Sweeney, who played for Bochy in San Diego, always thought Bochy would be a good fit.

``He's a players' manager and he goes out and communicates,'' Sweeney said. ``People know where he stands. He brings stability and has a track record for winning. He's a really good communicator and he's going to attract some free agents.''

San Francisco, which has 11 potential free agents including Barry Bonds, did not renew the 71-year-old Alou's contract after finishing its second straight losing season and third in a row out of the playoffs. Sabean and Bochy already have begun to discuss personnel _ and the Giants believe Bochy will attract players to the Giants, too.

``Not only will he help with our players, he will help in the market,'' Sabean said. ``He's got a baseball name.''

The Giants interviewed New York Mets third-base coach Manny Acta on Monday. Giants bench coach Ron Wotus and Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Bud Black also interviewed.

Sabean spoke to Wotus and the other candidates late Thursday and noted the conversation with Wotus _ in the organization the last 19 years _ was tough. Sabean said Wotus will be allowed to pursue other jobs if he chooses, perhaps even becoming a candidate to replace Bochy.

Sabean said he didn't intend to hire away any of Bochy's former staff in San Diego. Bochy, who was headed to Arizona for a workout with the team traveling to Japan, hoped to have his coaches in place soon.

``There is a sense of urgency,'' he said. ``Those decisions need to be made pretty soon.''