The San Diego Padres have taken over the lead in the National League Western Division with a familiar face in the dugout, occasionally.
Mike Shildt, booted as Cardinals manager after last season, has been back in uniform with the Padres a couple of times this season, including this week when he joined the coaching staff after manager Bob Melvin went on the COVID-19 list and the Padres had to do some reshuffling.
Shildt, after being let go by the Cardinals in October, signed on with the Padres “to kick the tires,” after turning their down their offseason request to interview him for the job that ultimately went to Melvin, who came from Oakland.
But, with third-base coach Matt Williams sidelined by hip surgery in spring training, Shildt, who was a consultant in player development, suddenly found himself coaching third base for the Padres.
When he isn’t pressed into service as a uniformed coach, Shildt evaluates talent in the Padres’ system and likely will be in charge of the minor league rehab for injured shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. He told the Post-Dispatch he was enjoying his time with the Padres and his part-time work with Major League Baseball but he is ready for something else.
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He still hurts from his Cardinals’ dismissal but he said, “I’m healing now. I’m getting beyond it and I’m ready to get back into the fray with the right opportunity.
“I’ve won my whole life,” he said. “I’m more convinced now that I’m ready to manage again. And win.”
Before he turned up in Chicago’s Wrigley Field this week, Shildt, wearing his MLB hat, had been in Kingsport, Tennessee, overseeing the start of the Appalachian Collegiate Summer League for July draft prospects.
His back and forth between MLB and the Padres, he joked, “is confusing everybody in my life. Definitely my wife. But, mostly in a good way.”
He said he followed the Padres’ recent three-game series in which they got swept by the Cardinals here three weeks ago. “I didn’t get a chance to watch a lot of it,” he said.
Shildt admitted he didn’t really want to watch because of the sting of being severed from the organization after some 18 years.
“I don’t want to rehash a whole lot publicly,” he said. “A combination of things happened.
“Another time. I don’t think this is it.”
He said he has heard from a few players over the past few months. “Supportive stuff that you would expect but don’t take for granted,” Shildt said.
In the immediate aftermath of his firing, Shildt said, “For probably two weeks straight, I was gone to the world.”
In that time frame, the Padres, who were looking for a manager, called and said they would send a plane to North Carolina, where Shildt lives, to pick him up and bring him back to San Diego for an interview.
“I said, ‘Let me sleep on it.’ I called the next day and told them, ‘My heart is not in it. I can’t give you what you want from me. My heart is broken and I can’t regroup right now.’
“But Bob was exactly the right guy,” Shildt said.
Shildt doesn’t have an agent. “I didn’t think I needed one,” he cracked.
But he is ready to get back in the game — more than just as a fill-in.
“I’m not sure what the market looks like,” he said. “I feel like I more than deserve the opportunity to do it. But I don’t know what people are looking for. I’ve never looked for a managing job.”
With the Cardinals, Shildt, who replaced the fired Mike Matheny in 2018, was National League Manager of the Year in 2019 for steering his club to the division title and into the league championship series. He also made the playoffs in each of the past two years.
“But I can also bring young guys along,” Shildt said. “I’ve won everywhere I’ve been, including the minor leagues.”
He won three consecutive championships at Johnson City and Springfield from 2010-12.
Those Cardinals days are gone now. “The past is the past,” said the 53-year-old Shildt. “It’s time to move on.”