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Pitching coach manhunt

Pitching coach manhunt
October 23, 2012
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There is very little in the way of specifics with respect to the Cleveland Indians pitching coach search.

No names in the mix for the position have been identified by Terry Francona or any other outlet. Therefore, at the moment, fans and media can only speculate as to who might be on the organization’s radar. The only ones officially out of contention are Tim Belcher, who held the job from 2010-11 before leaving for family reasons that still persist and Curt Schilling, who Francona expressly stated is not a candidate, but may land a role as a special assistant within the baseball operations department.

What all involved in the process are plenty aware of is how crucially important it is for the Tribe to land the right man to lead the pitchers. According to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, Francona cited the need for someone who is capable of making an impact, a coach who can revive Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez’s previous success, while keeping youngsters Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco poised.

Yeah, that’s no easy task. But then again, Francona is no ordinary Cleveland manager. He’s the coup, the guy that few initially believed would come to the North Shore.

One intriguing hint that the Indians skipper recently dropped was that the pitching coach he seeks does not necessarily need Major League experience. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who could be in the running. Whoever it is will have plenty of work ahead, as there is no other vacant coaching position more important to the team’s success. Former Indians pitching coach Scott Radinsky was let go without lasting a full season as Tribe pitchers underwhelmed with an AL-worst 4.78 team ERA in the 2012 campaign.

Again, no reports hitherto have named a single nominee, so let’s prognosticate a little. Here are some quick capsules on a range of potential pitching coach candidates:

Dave Wallace:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach (1995-97)
  • New York Mets pitching coach (1999-2000)
  • Boston Red Sox pitching coach (2003-06)

Wallace has ample experience, as well as a World Series ring from the 2004 season. He helped in the development of Hideo Nomo and Pedro Martinez, so he could certainly handle the assignment of rebuilding the Tribe pitching staff. If Wallace is still sore with Francona for replacing him with John Farrell following the ’06 season, then his chances of landing in Cleveland will be slim. However, if he has turned the other cheek, then their past success would likely prompt Francona to consider his former staff member.

Rich Sauveur

  • Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A) pitching coach (2008-present)

If you read heavily into Francona’s comment that he doesn’t demand Major League experience from his new pitching coach, then Sauveur could be the top choice he has in mind. During his tenure in Boston, Francona is known to have praised him heavily, so when you add Tito’s high opinion to the fact that Sauveur is on the record as saying it’s his dream to be a big league pitching coach, this fit makes a lot of sense. With his past success in molding Clay Bucholz and others, he’d be a great fit to mentor the young pitchers on the staff.

Charles Nagy

  • Columbus Clippers (Triple-A) pitching coach (2010)
  • Arizona Diamondbacks pitching coach (2011-present)

Like the consideration of Sandy Alomar Jr. as manager of the Indians, the insertion of Nagy into the role of pitching coach would stir a lot of nostalgic feelings in the hearts of Tribe fans. Nagy spent time in the Cleveland organization as a special assistant from 2004-05 before landing the Clippers pitching coach job in 2010. Even though his tenure in Arizona has been brief, the results are there. In his first season leading the Diamondbacks pitchers, the team ERA went down a full run and they walked over 100 fewer batters compared to the 2010 campaign. The big question is whether or not Nagy would be interested in coming to Cleveland to hold the same position he currently possesses in Arizona.

Gary Tuck

  • Boston Red Sox bullpen coach (2007-present)

Like Wallace, Tuck also holds the distinction of possessing a World Series ring, which he earned as a member of Francona’s staff in 2007. He has over 20 years of coaching experience, so he wouldn’t be daunted by the task afoot of recomposing the Indians pitching staff. Tuck was one of the many who was irked by former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, so he very well may be ready for a change of scenery, as well as a return to a friendly face.

Bob McClure

  • Kansas City Royals pitching coach (2006-2011)
  • Boston Red Sox pitching coach (2012)

McClure has some experience in the role, but was fired from both of his stints as a big league pitching coach. Nonetheless, he’s available and could present a good backup option in the event that the top options on Francona’s wish list end up elsewhere.

Internal Options

  • Ruben Niebla has worked his way up the Cleveland farm system. In 2011 he helped lead the Clippers pitching staff to its best team ERA (3.94) since 1994. He served as the Indians interim pitching coach this season after Scott Radinsky was fired.
  • Dave Miller spent a decade as the Tribes minor league pitching coordinator before being promoted to bullpen coach for the 2012 season.
  • Mickey Callaway served as the pitching coach for the Lake County Captains in 2010. In 2011 he was the pitching coach for the Kinston Indians. Hes currently Clevelands minor league pitching coordinator.

One final name I’d like to throw into the hat is Orel Hershiser. It’s a pure stab in the dark as to whether Francona could pry him away from his role as a baseball analyst for ESPN, which he has held the last six years, but if it were to somehow happen it’d surely cause waves. Plus, every good speculative list needs an eye-catching name. He spent a few seasons as the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers and has a superlative knowledge of the craft of pitching, so his addition would be nothing short of huge for the Tribe.

User Comments

Nick Schroeder
October 23, 2012 - 7:20 PM EDT
How about Rick Peterson. now balitmore minor league pitching cordinator.
October 23, 2012 - 6:49 PM EDT
What would be even more important?


Just sayin...
October 23, 2012 - 5:45 PM EDT
If you ask me, finding the right pitching coach is just as important as the manager hire.
Adam M
October 23, 2012 - 5:33 PM EDT
Thanks for the kind words, TribeFan1920 and Norm. It was a learning experience to piece this article together without concrete candidates to work with, but I suppose it makes sense, given that TF and co. could be competing for the same candidates that other teams are after. In any event, It's intriguing to assess the likelihood of each option's chances of getting the job. I've got my money on Sauveur, but Nagy is who I'd really like to see fill the role.

Tribefan, who knows, maybe Tito has something up his sleeve that no one sees coming. Do you have any other potential candidates in mind who might be in the mix?

Norm, totally agree. The Francona effect should help the Tribe land an impact pitching coach. This rotation is going to need every bit of help it can get.
October 23, 2012 - 2:52 PM EDT
Really informative Adam. There appears to be many more highly thought of options with our new manager. Not sure all these choices would be possible with someone other than Francona. Whoever it is will have his work cut out for him with the SPs.
October 23, 2012 - 11:49 AM EDT
Adam, interesting compilation. From the looks of it Francona and the Indians have done a good job covering up their plans for the pitching coach job. At the moment the only candidates appear to be obvious internal guys, former Tribe players like Nagy and Hershiser, and of course former guys on Francona's staffs in Boston and Philadelphia. I wonder who else beyond those guys is being considered. Nice job with the piece though and working with the limited info available.

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