Miley hopes return trip to major leagues better this time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

CINCINNATI - Ten years ago, Dave Miley seemed to be on the fast track.

He was the Cincinnati Reds bench coach in 1993, helping rookie manager Tony Perez ease into the job. At that point, the former minor league catcher was 31 years old and seemingly destined for big things.

Forty-four games into the season, Perez was fired by general manager Jim Bowden and Miley was demoted to bullpen coach. The next year, he was in the minors again.

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''That was a long year, to be honest with you,'' Miley said Tuesday. ''That was just a tough year. It seems like a long, long time ago.''

Ten years later, he's back. This time, he's in charge.

One of the Reds' most loyal employees finally got his chance to manage in the majors when Bowden and manager Bob Boone were fired Monday as part of a front office makeover.

Miley will be interim manager for the rest of the season, trying to steady the team through uncertain times. The Reds don't expect to hire another general manager until after the World Series, then chose a manager.

If the Reds do well for the rest of the season, Miley could be a candidate. He arrived in Cincinnati on Tuesday with no promises and no pretensions.

''With the time you spend down there, you wonder if it's ever going to happen,'' he said. ''I spent all those years in the organization, and I always wanted the big club to win.''

Miley got a firsthand idea of the immense job ahead. The Reds matched their season high with four errors and traded closer Scott Williamson during a 5-3 loss to Colorado.

Loyalty was a factor in Miley's long-awaited promotion. He had chances to leave for other organizations, but stuck it out with the Reds, who chose him out of high school in the second round of the 1980 amateur draft.

''My claim to fame is I was drafted before Eric Davis,'' he said.

Injuries to his right knee slowed him, and he took the Reds up on an offer to start coaching in the minors at age 24. He has spent the last seven years managing their Triple-A teams.

When he arrived and held a team meeting on Tuesday, he looked around and recognized the majority of the players. He then thanked them for making it possible for him to get to the big leagues.

Shortstop Barry Larkin, who has been through eight other managers during his 17-year career with the Reds, doesn't have any memories of Miley from the 1993 season.

''He was a guy that just kind of fit in,'' Larkin said. ''I think a good manager is one who lets his players go out there and play. I think that's what he'll do. A lot of guys really like him. I have not played for him, but in spring training I spent time with him. He's one of those guys that doesn't make waves. He makes everybody comfortable.''

Bowden used his Triple-A teams as a tryout for pitchers hoping to make it back to the majors after poor seasons or surgeries. Miley showed a knack for dealing with a revolving roster, disgruntled former major leaguers and up-and-coming youngsters.

''Dave's proven that he can manage people,'' said Tim Naehring, director of player development.

He has also shown a lot of loyalty, which made others in the organization pull for him. When Naehring took over in October 2000 and started making changes in the farm system, Miley was impressed and offered to return as Triple-A manager at the same salary.

''That shows me loyalty,'' Naehring said. ''When someone not only stays with an organization for 20-plus years but does something like that, I knew we had a class act in Triple-A.

''There's a big part of me that's pulling for him right now.''