Ian Harrison, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, July 13, 2022 12:41PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 13, 2022 9:49PM EDT
TORONTO (AP) – The Toronto Blue Jays fired manager Charlie Montoyo on Wednesday and promoted bench coach John Schneider to interim manager for the remainder of the season.
General manager Ross Atkins made the move even with the Blue Jays at 46-42 this season. They held the AL’s final wild-card slot when the day began but were in fourth place in the AL East.
Triple-A manager Casey Candaele was named interim bench coach.
“I truly wanted this to work with Charlie and wasn’t able to make that happen,” general manager Ross Atkins said before the Blue Jays hosted Philadelphia. “I’m extremely disappointed in where we are. I think we’re better than how we’ve played.”
Toronto beat the Phillies 4-3 on Tuesday to snap a four-game losing streak.
“Us as players know things could be better, things have to be better,” Blue Jays outfielder George Springer said. “We understand what we all can do. It hasn’t really shown yet. I think that’s the frustrating part.”
Atkins said the decision to fire Montoyo was made in the past 24 hours.
“It got to the point where it felt as though there were a lot of good individual things happening and we need to be playing better as a team,” Atkins said
The Blue Jays are 3-9 in July. They went 1-6 on a road trip against Oakland, which has the worst record in the majors, and Seattle that ended Sunday with a four-game sweep against the Mariners.
“I think we’re just not playing to our potential,” Atkins said. “I see some small opportunities to help that, and this was one of them.”
Montoyo became the third manager to lose his job this season. The Los Angeles Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin on June 7, four days after Philadelphia fired Joe Girardi in favor of Rob Thomson, who managed against Schneider Wednesday.
“(Phillies president) Dave (Dombrowski) just said I’m the longest-tenured manager on the field today,” Thomson said. “I feel old.”
The 13th manager in Blue Jays history, and the first from Puerto Rico, Montoyo went 236-236 in parts of four seasons.
Montoyo, 57, replaced John Gibbons as Blue Jays manager after the 2018 season. Montoyo‘s contract was extended through 2023 on April 1.
“I believe in him still as a baseball leader, but I felt this change was necessary,” Atkins said of Montoyo.
Schneider has been on Toronto’s big league staff since 2019 and became bench coach this season.
Drafted by the Blue Jays as a catcher in 2002, Schneider spent six seasons in Toronto’s minor leagues, rising as high as Triple-A in 2007 before becoming a coach the following year.
Schneider managed Toronto’s Class A team to a Florida State League title in 2017, then led Double-A New Hampshire to the Eastern League crown in 2018. That Double-A team featured current Blue Jays stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Jordan Romano, among others.
“This is something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’m just looking forward to doing it with this group that I’m familiar with, both in the coaching office and the guys in the clubhouse,” Schneider said.
“I don’t really see many cons, to be honest with you,” Schneider added. “This is a group that’s talented and wants to win.”
Atkins called the decision to promote Schneider “a natural step,” acknowledging that Schneider’s history with the roster was a factor.
“That definitely was a part of it, that familiarity, at this point in the season,” Atkins said.
Springer said Schneider’s energy and attitude will be important attributes as the Blue Jays attempt to improve their performance.
“He’s obviously a very energetic guy,” Springer said. “He likes to have fun. There’s never really a dull moment with him. Hopefully, who he is as a person will kind of ooze onto us as players and allow us to relax a little bit, have a little bit more fun and kind of enjoy the day.”
Schneider said he was driving to lunch with his wife and sons when Atkins called to deliver the news.
“Those plans kind of changed in a hurry,” Schneider said, adding that his two young boys weren’t entirely clear on dad’s new job.
“They could tell by mom’s reaction that it was pretty cool,” he said.
Toronto’s skid started July 2, when it was swept in a doubleheader against Tampa Bay. Montoyo and first base coach Mark Budzinksi left the dugout during Game 2 after learning of the death of Budzinski’s teenage daughter, Julia.
Several members of the Blue Jays organization flew to Virginia together on Monday’s day off to attend Julia Budzinski’s funeral.
“Out of respect for Charlie, once you’ve made the decision, regardless of circumstance, that’s the best thing for the individual and the team,” Atkins said of Montoyo‘s firing coming on the heels of that tragedy.
Montoyo oversaw a tumultuous period in Blue Jays history, with the team playing home games in three cities last season, including two minor league parks, because of border restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Toronto also played its 2020 home schedule at its Triple-A stadium in Buffalo, New York.
Montoyo led Toronto to a 32-28 record and a wild-card playoff berth in the expanded playoffs that followed the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the Blue Jays were swept by eventual AL champion Tampa Bay in the opening round. Toronto went 91-71 in 2021 and missed tying for the AL wild card by one game.
Before joining the Blue Jays, Montoyo spent six seasons on Tampa Bay’s major league coaching staff, including his final three as bench coach. Prior to that, he spent 18 seasons as a minor league manager in the Rays system and also worked with the Puerto Rican team at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.