Former Red Benavides returns to team’s major league coaching staff

If there’s a job in the Cincinnati Reds organization that Freddie Benavides hasn’t filled, just wait – he’ll get there.

Benavides added to his personal list of Reds jobs on Nov. 28 when new Cincinnati manager David Bell named the former infielder as bench coach for the 2019 season.

“I’m very excited,” Benavides, 52, said during Redsfest. “I’m pumped up.”

The 2019 season will be Benavides’s sixth on Cincinnati’s major league coaching staff. He was the Reds’ infield coach in 2014 and 2015 and was first base coach the previous three seasons.

“I knew I was coming back,” said the Laredo, Texas, native and resident, who interviewed for the manager’s job. “I just didn’t know what my role was going to be.”

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Benavides originally joined the Reds as their second-round pick in the June 1987 draft. He reached the Reds in 1991 and hit .246 in 98 games over two seasons before being picked by Colorado in the 1992 expansion draft. He hit .286 in 74 games with the Rockies in 1993 and .188 in 47 games with Montreal in 1994 after a trade.

After his playing career ended in 1996, Benavides joined Cincinnati’s minor league system in 1999 as manager at Clinton (Iowa) of the Single-A Midwest League. He moved to Dayton to become the first manager in Dragons’ franchise history in 2000, lasting one season before being named Cincinnati’s minor league infield coordinator. He spent seven seasons in that role and the next six as the player development field coordinator, except for a season as manager of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2004 and filling in as rookie-level Billings (Mont.) manager for 75 games in 2007.

He also spent the last couple months of the 2003 season as a Reds coach.

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“There’s a major comfort level there with Freddie,” Bell said on a recent WLW-AM Reds “Hot Stove League” radio show. “He’s had great experiences in this game. He has a ton of experience, both in player development and now at the major league level. A lot of knowledge, a lot of experience, very open-minded. He continues to learn and grow. I worked for Freddie when he was a field coordinator. Going into a situation where I have a comfort level with the bench coach, that’s going to be really important.

“We are very excited about the people that we’ve put in place,” he added. “To a man, each one of them wants to be here and a lot of them had other choices and they chose to be here in this organization at this time. That was really important to us.”

Benavides and Bell developed a relationship when Bell was managing in the Reds minor league system from 2009 through 2012. Benavides wasn’t sure how their major league relationship will develop.

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“You always ask questions,” said Benavides, who replaces Pat Kelly, who finished 2018 as interim bench coach after Jim Riggleman was promoted from bench coach to interim manager following the dismissal of Bryan Price as manager. “David’s been a bench coach (2015 through 2017 with St. Louis), so that will help. We’ll see what he needs.

“I’m very, very excited,” he added. “I’m energized.”

Redsfest was the first opportunity for Bell to get together with his new staff – pitching coach Derek Johnson, hitting coach Turner Ward, third base/catching coach J.R. House, assistant hitting coach Donnie Ecker, first base coach and former Dragons manager Delino DeShields, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and game planning and outfield coach Jeff Pickler.

“We finally got together for the first time as a staff today, which was nice,” Bell said last week. “The last two days have been great, just seeing some players and seeing some faces. We kind of just hung out in the clubhouse as guys came through. It’s really been the two best days on the job so far, seeing those guys.

“It’s more just making a connection and talking and getting to know them,” Bell added. “At this point, I’m just trying to get to know everybody. We get in-depth a little bit. Right now, it’s just building relationships and saying hi to guys.”

Perhaps the most intriguing new face is Pickler, who really wasn’t sure what will be involved in “game planning.”

“We’ll see how it shapes up,” said Pickler, 42, a Twins coach the previous two seasons. “There are a lot of different things available for the staff to use to get ready for games and guide the decision-making in games – information from a lot of different angles, analytics, scouting reports.”

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