Francona adds Nipper to '06 staff

Sox promote Nipper to bullpen coach

BOSTON -- In the minds of many Red Sox fans, the most indelible image of Al Nipper remains that live television clip back in 1986 when he joyfully head-butted Roger Clemens a few hours after Boston had clinched the American League East title.

Nearly 20 years later, Nipper remains a part of the Red Sox, and the club announced Wednesday night that their former right-handed starter has been promoted back to the Major Leagues, where he will serve as manager Terry Francona's bullpen coach during the 2006 season.

"I'm very excited, to put it bluntly," said Nipper. "I'm really excited about being with the Red Sox, being a part of the Major League staff and, obviously, being back in the big leagues with the Red Sox. It's really very gratifying, and I'm really honored and I feel like I'm very blessed to be able to be put in this position, to be on this staff and help the club."

Nipper has served the Red Sox in various capacities, from pitcher to Major League pitching coach to Minor League pitching coach to Minor League instructor, and now, as bullpen coach.

In all, Nipper has now been part of the Red Sox family for 17 years.

Last year, the Red Sox used catcher Bill Haselman as their bullpen coach. He will move to first base in '06, allowing the Red Sox to have a former pitcher work with pitchers in the bullpen.

The team also announced that bench coach Brad Mills, hitting coach Ron Jackson and pitching coach Dave Wallace have been invited to return in their capacities in '06. DeMarlo Hale was named third-base coach earlier in the offseason following Dale Sveum's departure to the Brewers.

Nipper's rookie year as a player was 1983, a season best known in Red Sox history as the year Carl Yastrzemski retired. He was a regular member of the rotation in '84 through '87, winning 42 games in a Boston uniform.

He was a pitching coach for the Red Sox during parts of the '95 and '96 seasons.

Now, Nipper looks forward to working under Wallace.

"It's different than being a pitching coach, when you're the one that's pretty much putting the program in place," Nipper said. "I am following the program and I will continue to help Wally in whatever phase he asks me to."

From his work in Boston's Minor League system, Nipper has monitored the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen and looks forward to watching further progress from those three bright young arms.

"I think they have bright futures, as do a lot of our younger pitchers coming up," said Nipper. "Obviously, Wally had them this year. I might be able to help Wally to give him some insight to their personalities, maybe some mechanical things. For me, I'm just an extra set of eyes. Most importantly, from my point of view as bullpen coach, I need to build that bond with Wally and be his confidant."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.