Phillies dismiss hitting coach Thompson
Club tabs Greg Gross as replacement
ST. LOUIS -- Milt Thompson expressed no bitterness, which was just one surprise on Thursday.
The Phillies dismissed Thompson as hitting coach following a 2-6 road trip and a season's worth of offensive struggles and injuries. The team announced that Greg Gross, who served as Larry Bowa's hitting coach from 2002 to 2004, will take his place.
"It's part of the business," Thompson said in a telephone interview with MLB.com on Thursday night. "I ain't even mad. If somebody else can get them going and they can get in the playoffs this year, that would be great."
The Phillies rank 12th in the National League this season in batting (.254) and on-base percentage (.322). They rank sixth in both runs (437) and slugging percentage (.411), but they have been wildly inconsistent. They have been held to one run or fewer 23 times in 95 games -- the most since 2005, when they were similarly stifled 29 times.
But Thompson, who had been the team's hitting coach since 2005, also worked with some of the strongest offenses in team history. The Phillies finished second in the NL in scoring in 2005, first in 2006 and 2007, second in 2008 and first again in 2009.
The Phillies have struggled this season, though Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz have missed significant time with injuries.
"I did all I could," Thompson said. "They're just not responding this year. A lot of injuries and everything. We just couldn't get it going. I'm not considered the scapegoat. I'm serious. I work hard. I know that I'm good at what I do. I'll just move on and do it somewhere else."
Thompson said that the Phillies told him they wanted a new voice.
"I can't get mad at that," he said. "If they want somebody else in there they think can get these guys going and we're in the middle of the season and we still have a shot, that's fine."
Asked what he thought hurt the Phillies most this season, he said, "I think the injury bug really has been a hard thing. I'm not going to be the first one to make excuses, but we've had our Opening Day lineup on the field eight times. You miss Jimmy. He's back for a couple of days, then he's gone again. The next thing you know, Polly is out. Now Chase is out. It's just been one of those years. In order for a team to be successful and have a good year, you can't have a lot of injuries."
So how does a new voice change that?
"I can't explain that," he said. "I can only go by what they told me. They want a new voice. You've got to allow them to do that. I'm not upset. I worked hard for the Phillies. I did the best I could."
When told that his reaction to the firing is a bit of a surprise, given the absence of anger or bitterness, Thompson replied, "You know what? They have to do what they have to do. I'm not mad at them. I've had a great opportunity. I've enjoyed the success we've had the past few years. I have no animosity. I'm not upset. I'll be doing my thing for a long time. I have a lot of baseball left in me. I have no reason to hang my head or feel ashamed."
He even said that he plans to attend the team's alumni weekend in August.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel, who were unavailable to comment, informed Thompson of the decision after the team's flight arrived in Philadelphia.
Manuel was asked about Thompson's job performance in June. He said at the time, "It's definitely not Milt Thompson's fault. He doesn't do the hitting. You've got to hold people [accountable]. I don't see a young player on our roster. These guys have been around a long time. If they haven't learned something from their hitting by now, and they don't know some of the things that they do when they go bad ... we can talk to them and we can tell them things that we see. You're the one making the outs."
Gross had been a coach with Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the past three seasons. He spent 10 years with the Phillies (1979 to 1988) and played in two World Series with the team (1980 and 1983).
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.