Updated 

Frank Viola to join Wally Backman on Las Vegas 51s coaching staff


Sweet Music will accompany the crack of the bat — and Wally Backman — at Cashman Field this season.

Backman will return for his second season as 51s manager, and Frank “Sweet Music” Viola will be the pitching coach for the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, the team announced Wednesday.

“Frankie’s a great guy. He’s very knowledgeable about the game. He’s a baseball guy,” Backman said. “He played the game a long time and takes a lot of pride working with the pitching staff. He’s going to be an asset to our club.”

The 1987 World Series Most Valuable Player and 1988 American League Cy Young Award winner for the Minnesota Twins, Viola has been a pitching coach in the Mets’ farm system the past three seasons — the past two for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats after spending 2011 with the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones.

A New York native and former Mets pitcher, the 53-year-old Viola replaces Randy St. Claire on the Las Vegas coaching staff.

Last season, Backman led the 51s to their first Pacific Coast League playoff berth since 2002.

The fiery Backman, who won a World Series title with the 1986 Mets, guided the 51s to an 81-63 record — the second-best in the PCL — and the Pacific Southern division crown before they lost to Salt Lake in four games in the playoffs.

“We’ve got a little bit of unfinished business,” Backman said. “We got to the playoffs and couldn’t continue. There’s always this year.”

Backman said Las Vegas will be led by a strong pitching staff expected to feature three of New York’s top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America, in Noah Syndergaard (No. 1), Rafael Montero (No. 3) and Jacob deGrom (No. 10).

The 51s also might feature closer Jeff Walters, who had a franchise-record 38 saves last season for Double-A Binghamton, which finished a franchise-best 86-55 en route to a division title.

“Our pitching staff is going to be excellent,” Backman said. “They’ll keep us in a lot of games.”

Backman expects slick-fielding shortstop Wilfredo Tovar to make the jump from Double A and said the 51s also might feature slugger Allan Dykstra, who earned Eastern League MVP honors last season after batting .274 with 21 home runs and 82 RBIs for Binghamton.

George Greer will return as hitting coach for Las Vegas.

Backman, 54, has made it clear he wants to manage in the big leagues but didn’t attract much interest in the offseason.

“I had a few talks that never amounted to a whole lot,” he said. “I decided that the right place to stay would be with the Mets.”

Backman, who was named Arizona Diamondbacks manager on Nov. 1, 2004, but was fired four days later amid legal and financial revelations, said he just needs another shot in the majors.

“We didn’t win it all (last season), so maybe that’s what we’ve got to do,” he said. “We’ll try to do that this year.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.