Joe Oliver. (Photo courtesy of Minor League Baseball)

When Joe Oliver finished a 13-year major league career, he took a break from baseball.

“I promised my wife I’d be around for the kids,” Oliver said. “Took 13 years off.

“Then the Red Sox called and it was a no-brainer.”

Oliver became a minor league manager in 2014, and in 2019 is headed to Portland.

The Red Sox named Oliver the new Portland Sea Dogs manager in a series of personnel moves announced Thursday. Oliver, 53, replaces Darren Fenster, who was promoted to a roving instructor in charge of outfielders and baserunners.

Fenster replaces Billy McMillon, a former Sea Dogs manager who is taking over at Triple-A Pawtucket — replacing Kevin Boles, another former Sea Dogs manager, who resigned after last season.


Also, pitching coach Paul Abbott and hitting coach Lee May Jr. will return to Portland. Luke Montz, a Sea Dogs coach last year, was named manager of Lowell.

Oliver fits the mold of other former Sea Dogs managers (McMillon, Carlos Febles) who were with the Red Sox late in their career. Oliver, a catcher and second-round draft pick out of high school, made his major league debut with the Reds in 1989. The next season, Oliver was playing in the World Series and celebrating a four-game sweep of Oakland.

After nine years with Cincinnati, Oliver moved on to play for the Tigers, Mariners, Pirates, Yankees and briefly with the Red Sox in 2001. He was signed in July of that year and played five games for Boston (and 13 in Pawtucket). That was his last season. He retired and went home to his family.

But we wasn’t done with baseball.

So when the kids were older and the Red Sox called, Oliver was ready.

“They’re a great organization and managing is something I had aspirations of doing,” Oliver said. “As a catcher I was in charge of a lot of games. … I liked being involved in the decision-making. I liked the challenge of running a ballclub.”


Oliver managed the short-season Lowell Spinners for two years before moving up to advanced Class A Salem in 2016. With a handful of prospects, including a young third baseman named Rafael Devers, Salem won the division that year. In three years at Salem, Oliver was 223-193.

“He is the best, a great players’ manager,” said Sea Dogs outfielder Danny Mars, who played for Oliver in 2016.

For Oliver, it’s not only one step closer to his goal — “this is something I want to do at the highest level” — but also brings him back to the Eastern League. Oliver was a catcher for the Vermont Reds in 1986-87.

Replacing Oliver in Salem will be Corey Wimberly, who managed Lowell last season. Former Sea Dogs infielder Iggy Suarez will begin his second season managing low Class A Greenville. The Sea Dogs will announce Montz’s replacement later.

Oliver will be officially introduced to Portland on Tuesday during the Sea Dogs’ annual Hot Stove Dinner.

A HOST OF PLAYERS who wore the Sea Dogs uniform last year were invited to Boston’s major league spring training camp. Leading the group is slugging corner infielder Bobby Dalbec. Others include pitcher Mike Shawaryn, catcher Austin Rei, outfielders Tate Matheny and Cole Sturgeon, utility player Chad De La Guerra and first baseman Josh Ockimey. C.J. Chatham, expected to be Portland’s starting shortstop this season, was invited. Two former Sea Dogs outfielders, Bryce Brentz and Rusney Castillo, also were invited.

Joe Oliver. (Photo courtesy of Minor League Baseball)

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