The starting rotation was identified as the weak link in the Blue Jays’ disappointing 2013 season but the men in charge of improving batting in recent seasons paid the price Monday.
The 73-89 American League East team announced that hitting coach Chad Mottola and first base coach Dwayne Murphy would not be back with the major league staff. Mottola just completed his first season as the Jays’ hitting coach, a job Murphy held from 2010 to 2012.
Bench coach DeMarlo Hale, pitching coach Pete Walker, third-base coach Luis Rivera and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen will return in their current roles under manager John Gibbons, the team said in a statement.
Rivera was promoted from coaching assistant to third base coach for the 2013 season. Hale came over from the Baltimore Orioles while Walker moved from bullpen coach to succeed Bruce Walton as pitching coach.
The Jays had a team batting average of .252 last season, 15th in the majors. Toronto was fourth in home runs with 185 and 11th in RBIs with 669, and the team had the sixth fewest strikeouts.
In his season review, general manager Alex Anthopoulos pointed the finger at instability in the starting rotation as the team’s biggest problem.
The team’s expected starting rotation — R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson and Ricky Romero — cost US$46.75 million in salaries in 2013 and finishing with a combined 30-36 record. Dickey and Buehrle accounted for 26 of those wins.
At the plate, catcher J.P. Arencibia regressed. Arencibia slugged 21 home runs but hit just .194 and struck out 148 times in 2013.
Other Jays hitters also had bumpy times at the plate.
Murphy, 58, batted .246 with 166 homers and 609 RBIs in 1,360 games with Oakland, Detroit and Philadelphia, winning six Gold Glove Awards as an outfielder.
He joined the Jays system as a coach in January 2005, eventually becoming roving hitting instructor. He was named Toronto’s first base coach in June 2008 and added hitting coach duties for the 2010 season when the Jays hit a record 257 home runs.
This season, he served as first base and outfield coach while yielding hitting duties to Mottola.
Mottola, 41, began his coaching career in the Blue Jays system in 2007 after concluding a 16-year playing career that included 59 major-league and 1,801 minor-league games. A former first-round pick, he hit 239 homers in the minor leagues and four in the majors.
He spent three seasons as hitting coach for the Jays’ Class-AAA farm team, then located in Las Vegas, before being promoted to the big club.