In his first time speaking this offseason, Yankees new third base coach Luis Rojas addressed the New York media in a different capacity Tuesday, discussing his transition from Mets manager to his new role in the Bronx.
A lot of it had to do with Aaron Boone, who returns on a new contract.
Rojas explained how, before he headed to the Dominican Republic for the offseason, he was in New York closing things out with the Mets when Boone talked to him on the phone.
“I ran into Aaron and there was just a lot of things from a personal level that were really interesting to me and also the organization itself, the New York Yankees,” Rojas said. “And also Aaron Boone as the manager. I think he’s a great baseball man, a great leader. The team is very talented. There’s so many things that I think were very attractive to me and that’s when the talks started. It was probably close to a month after our last game [with the Mets] of the season.”
Rojas added that two years ago, when he was named manager of the Mets, Boone was actually the first person to call him and congratulate him.
“He was the first one that called me over the phone and actually left a message,” Rojas said. “I couldn’t answer it on time. I called back and we connected, but he was welcoming me to the city as the manager of one of the two teams. I thought that was pretty neat.”
As far as the interview process, Rojas called it a “healthy” one, but it was quick.
“I think it was over a weekend. It happened in the matter of three days. …Two days later [when] Aaron contacted me and said they were going to go with me,” Rojas divulged.
“Lot of questions from different angles, different areas of the game that are real, that are used on a daily basis from any coaching angle. As a third base coach, I got a bunch of questions. And as an outfield coach, which is one of my duties as well coming into the coaching staff. Lot of good questions. Analytical questions, personal questions, baseball questions, you name them.”
Though it’s a step down from where he’s been the past two seasons, Rojas remains on a playoff contender heading into the offseason with a new opportunity to help the Yanks break their World Series drought.
“I’ve been very excited for the last week or so,” he said.
Here’s what else Rojas touched on in his news conference:
No one really knows what a third base coach does other than sending runners home, calling signs and having personalized celebrations with home run hitters every now and then.
But Rojas broke it down, including the fact that working with outfielders will be on his docket.
“Now in the offseason, I’m actually doing a lot of work. I’m waiting on getting my hands on a lot of video and a lot of different data out there that’s going to put me in a spot to coach the guys and also going to put me in a spot to make some decisions way, way ahead. When you get into the daily grind and you see where the guys are at, you can study different things from opposing defenses. Shifts, outfield arms, the range of the outfielders. Just a lot of different things. Just prepare yourself as a third base coach and not be reactive but be a person that anticipates what’s going to happen and you calculate very well a lot of things that go into the equation of whether you’re going to send or stop a runner.”
There’s also being a clubhouse presence, something Rojas was well known for with the Mets.
“Daily connection with players. Reminder of signs, reminder of body language and things that are going to mean something. The earlier they know you, the better you are relaying signs and more clarity there is. Those are things that come into play every day.”
Rojas didn’t answer Mets regarding another position within organization
When the Mets made Rojas aware that his option wouldn’t be picked up as manager and they would be looking elsewhere, he said there were discussions about taking over a different role within the organization.
But, in the end, Rojas wanted to explore his own options.
“It’s always tough when you hear you’re not going to keep doing something you’ve been doing for a couple years. Changes sometimes surprise you, but changes are good things a lot of times. I think that after that, I had the freedom to talk to other teams, though an offer to remain in the organization was talked about in that last talk I had with the Mets. I didn’t give an answer, but I did have permission to talk to other teams.”
Connections in the clubhouse
Having spent years in the Mets’ minor league system, Rojas had the opportunity to not only groom Mets prospects but also watch what the Yankees were doing.
For example, in 2014, the South Atlantic League in High-A ball had Aaron Judge playing on the All-Star Team he managed. He said he’s also seen Tyler Wade, Gary Sanchez and others work their way up through the Yanks’ farm.
On the coaching side, Carlos Mendoza was managing in the minors while he was, too, so there’s that connection.
“I’m not going to be a stranger coming into the clubhouse they want. I’m looking forward to that,” he said.