QUEENS — Carlos Mendoza just cracked the door of possibility open for Willie Randolph to return to the New York Mets.
The new Mets manager, who was officially introduced to the media on Tuesday at Citi Field, brought up the former skipper, who led the club from 2005-2008, as an important influence in his coaching journey during his opening remarks.
“I learned a lot the past few years from Willie Randolph, who I consider a friend,” Mendoza said. “This is a guy that — I don’t know if he knows it — he had a big impact on my coaching career.”
The Mets are currently evaluating the role of bench coach under Mendoza — the 43-year-old adding that he and president of baseball operations David Stearns are currently going through “a bunch of names.”
There has been no official word on the future of current bench coach Eric Chavez as of yet. But with those comments, Randolph’s name immediately flew to the forefront.
“I was pretty vocal when I referred to Willie,” Mendoza said after his press conference. “This is somebody that I have a lot of respect for. I have a really good relationship with him and consider him not only as a mentor but as a friend.”
When asked if that meant he was a favorite for the position, Mendoza laughed.
“We’ll see where it goes,” he said. “Like I said, he’s somebody that I respect and consider a friend.”
Joel Sherman of the New York Post managed to get in touch with the 69-year-old Randolph following Mendoza’s introduction.
“All I said to him was to do whatever you need to do,” Randolph told Sherman. “Get your family to New York, get yourself comfortable, and know in the back of your mind if you need me, I’m here for you. I am a Carlos Mendoza fan.”
Randolph posted a .544 win percentage as Mets manager, which ranks second-best in franchise history behind only Davey Johnson. He led the team to a National League East division title in 2006, which was the club’s first since 1988, before falling in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. He was fired 69 games into the 2008 season while the team was on a west-coast road trip.
He never managed again, last holding a coaching job in the majors with former Mets manager Buck Showalter during his stint as Baltimore Orioles skipper in 2011. Randolph began the year as the bench coach but transitioned to third-base coach in his only year with the AL East side.