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Rays turn to a mainstay

When Chris Bosio stepped down as Devil Rays pitching coach Wednesday, the Rays didn't look far for his replacement.

Tampa native Chuck Hernandez, the Rays' minor-league pitching coordinator for the past six seasons, was named to replace Bosio, who left because of a personal family matter.

"He's the right guy for the job," manager Lou Piniella said. "When Boz made the difficult decision to leave, we didn't think of anyone else other than Chuck Hernandez. He was our only choice."

Hernandez, who turns 43 next week, was an all-state pitcher at Tampa Catholic and brings 26 years of professional baseball experience with him, four (1993-96) as the Angels pitching coach. The Rays' decision, though, was made easy because of Hernandez's experience inside the organization.

"I've known most of our pitchers since they were teenagers," Hernandez said. "I'm excited about the young talent we have here, but it's time to go from having young guys who are happy to be in the majors to young guys who are winning games."

A left-handed pitcher, Hernandez spent five seasons in the minors with the Yankees and White Sox from 1979-83. His playing career was cut short when he broke an arm while pitching in an instructional league game for the White Sox in 1983.

He began his coaching career with the White Sox in 1985. After one season, he joined the Angels organization for 12 years before moving to the Rays in 1997. In his first year with the organization he served as pitching coach of the St. Petersburg Devil Rays, the Rays' Florida State League affiliate that won the league championship that season.

The best part of his new job is that Hernandez now works across the bay from where he grew up.

"That's an honor and a privilege, but when I signed here six years ago it wasn't because it was my hometown, but because I wanted to be a part of this organization," Hernandez said. "And it has been great working with (minor-league coaches such as) Joe Coleman and Bill Evers and Dick Bosman. That's what has been so exciting about this job. That and having a young staff that I think has a good chance of being a good major-league staff."

That staff struggled last season under Bosio, but Piniella said he was pleased with Bosio's effort.

"Let's face it, he had a tough job with all the young pitchers we had," Piniella said. "The staff got better as the season progressed and that's really how you judge the job of a pitching coach. Is the staff getting better? And ours did, and Boz deserves the credit for that."

Bosio did not want to comment on the specific reason for his resignation, but he did release a statement through the Rays.

"Right now my family needs me more than baseball does so I have decided to step down," Bosio said. "I would like to thank the organization for the opportunity, thank the players for their hard work and wish them all good luck next season."