CINCINNATI — Pitching coach Bryan Price was first on the Reds’ list of managerial candidates. Three hours of answering every question tossed his way ended their search rather quickly.
After one interview, it was over.
The Reds stayed in-house for their next manager, giving the onetime Mariners pitching coach a three-year deal Tuesday that came with expectations that he’ll take them deep into the playoffs right away.
“Bryan is exceptional,” owner Bob Castellini said. “We’ve been fortunate to be with him long enough to know how exceptional he is.
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“I can’t tell you how well this has fit in for us. We did not have to go out and do a search. We had the person we felt could take this team deep into the postseason and then some.”
Dusty Baker led the Reds to three 90-win seasons and three playoff appearances in the last four years, their best stretch of success since Sparky Anderson managed the Big Red Machine in the 1970s. But Cincinnati got knocked out in the first round of the postseason each time.
The Reds fired Baker with a year left on his two-year deal after a final-week, six-game fade that included an implosion by the pitching staff.
General manager Walt Jocketty considered two in-house candidates: Price and Class AAA manager Jim Riggleman, a former M’s interim manager. Price got the first interview and impressed everyone so much that Jocketty didn’t interview anyone else.
“I was convinced that Bryan was our guy just because of the past association we’ve had with him,” Jocketty said. “I think that to bring other people in just for the process of going through an interview — to me, I wouldn’t want that.”
The job carries enormous expectations for Price, 51, who has been one of the most successful pitching coaches in the majors — including a stop in Seattle from 2000 to 2005 — but has never managed at any level. He interviewed for the Marlins’ job last year, which got him thinking that he’d like to be a manager some day. Given his four successful seasons in Cincinnati, he wanted to stay if possible.
“It’s a team that’s capable of doing even more,” Price said. “I think we certainly should talk very optimistically about the three playoff appearances in the last four years, which were maybe somewhat discredited because we hadn’t gotten past the first round.
“Considering the 15 years prior, it was definitely a huge step in the right direction. But we all have expectations of getting beyond that.”
• Braves scout and special assistant Dick Balderson, 67, who drafted Ken Griffey Jr. and traded for Jay Buhner during his stint as Mariners GM from 1986 to 1988, announced his retirement.
• Mets RHP Matt Harvey, 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 2013, underwent elbow-reconstruction surgery and will miss the 2014 season.