By R.B. Fallstrom/The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS — Derek Lilliquist will be making the calls from the St. Louis Cardinals dugout instead of receiving them next season.
The Cardinals retooled their coaching staff Friday while Dave Duncan takes an open-ended leave of absence, elevating Lilliquist from bullpen coach to pitching coach and replacing him in the pen with Dyar Miller.
General manager John Mozeliak said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he didn’t know whether Duncan planned on returning for a 17th season. Mozeliak said reports that Duncan will retire were speculation at this point.
“Honestly, I don’t know that answer,” Mozeliak said. “The one thing I wanted to make clear, I did want Lilly and Dyar to know they’d be with the team. I want clarity going into 2012.”
If Duncan does not return, the Cardinals will be defending their World Series title without three of their biggest figures. Tony La Russa retired as the third-winningest manager in major history the day after the World Series parade. Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, who anchored the No. 3 spot in the lineup for 11 seasons, agreed to a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
The 45-year-old Lilliquist filled in as pitching coach when the 66-year-old Duncan took a leave of absence last August to be with his wife, Jeanine, following surgery to remove a brain tumor. Duncan returned to the team in time for its run to a World Series championship but the Cardinals announced Thursday he was taking another leave related to his wife’s recovery.
During Lilliquist’s time as the fill-in pitching coach, the Cardinals charged from 10½ games back in the NL wild card standings. They clinched a playoff spot on the final day of the season, then upset the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers to take the title.
“I think he has the confidence of our pitchers and obviously has had the time to learn under Dave,” Mozeliak said of Lilliquist. “He was always somebody that I believed had a bright future.”
Duncan returned in time for the regular season finale at the request of La Russa, who had decided a month earlier that he would be retiring, and wanted Duncan at his side when his managing career concluded.
Duncan coached alongside La Russa for 33 seasons with the Chicago White Sox (1979-86), Oakland Athletics (1986-95) and Cardinals. He’s coached several Cy Young winners, including LaMarr Hoyt, Dennis Eckersley and Chris Carpenter, and has been credited with resurrecting the careers of countless pitchers including Woody Williams and Jeff Suppan, who played major roles on Cardinals postseason runs.
Lilliquist was bullpen coach last year and had been retained in that spot under new manager Mike Matheny. The 65-year-old Miller, who pitched for seven major league seasons, has been with the organization since 1985.