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Finding a New Pitching Coach

With Paul Molitor set to be announced as the new Twins manager on Tuesday morning, focus now shifts to the makeup of his coaching staff. Molitor and Ryan will likely work together to assemble this group, so it stands to reason that several members will be internal (and even incumbent) selections.

Molitor worked alongside hitting coach Tom Brunansky in a 2014 season that saw several young hitters succeed. Bruno seems like a lock to return. Terry Steinbach, Gene Glynn and Doug Mientkiewicz are all names within the organization who could land on Molitor's staff.

However, the Twins may look outside for help at the one spot that figures to draw more attention than any other: pitching coach.
Rick Anderson held that role through Ron Gardenhire's tenure, and he oversaw some very effective staffs during that time. In recent years, however, pitching has been a constant problem for the club.

Anderson's "pitch to contact" mantra, though often misinterpreted and overblown, did manifest in several areas -- most notably the stat sheet. Minnesota has ranked last in the American League in strikeouts every year since 2011, with 500 fewer whiffs than the next-lowest MLB team during that span.

The pitching staff needs to reinvent its identity, so there will be great interest in the Twins pick to run this unit.

It is possible that they will look inward once again. Here are a few names worth watching on that front:

Stu Cliburn: He has spent the last five years working as a pitching coach between Triple-A Rochester and Double-A New Britain. He has familiarity with many of the young arms that will comprise Twins staffs in the next couple years.

Marty Mason: Replaced Cliburn as Red Wings pitching coach in 2012 after spending a couple of years in the Cubs organization. He helped Trevor May make massive improvements this year and also worked extensively with Alex Meyer, who might be the most important piece in the Twins' short-term pitching plans.

Eric Rasmussen: If you're looking for someone with wide-reaching knowledge of the upcoming pitchers you could hardly do better than Rasmussen, who has been the organization's minor-league pitching coordinator since 2008. Before that, he was a pitching coach for various Twins affiliates for 17 years.

While these could all be fine choices, the Twins may be more inclined look outside for a candidate at this spot given the depths of their struggles with developing pitchers recently.

If so, one intriguing name is Frank Viola. He came up with the Twins back in the 1980s, won a Cy Young here in 1988, and is a member of the team's Hall of Fame. He was mentioned in a recent Sid Hartman column as a possible candidate and he would make some sense.

Viola has been working as a pitching coach in the Mets system for the past four seasons. He underwent open heart surgery in April this year after an issue was discovered during his preseason physical, but recovered fully and joined Triple-A Las Vegas two months later. His name is very much on the rise.

Molitor and Viola never played on the same team (they just missed each other in Toronto) but their careers spanned the same era so they likely have familiarity with each other. Both bring a marketable recognition factor while also the promise of fresh perspective.

It would be an interesting direction for the Twins' new regime.


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50 Comments

I'm sure there are qualified people in the organization, but I really hope they fill the coaching staff with outside personnel. I couple holdovers would be okay, but they need to bring in some new prospective instead of just current staff and former players.

    • glunn likes this

I don't have any strong feelings about Viola, but he would certainly count as outside personnel.  He hasn't done anything with the Twins in what, 25 years?  He's been with several other organizations.  Plenty of outside perspective there.

 

Pitching coaches are a mystery to me.  A few always seem to have really good pitchers, a few have a mystique that doesn't seem deserved (Don Cooper, maybe), and I'm sure they are important but as with anything, different coaches seem to relate better or worse to different pitchers.  I just hope whoever they get can offer suggestions to pitchers with different styles and not try to make everyone into the same mold.

    • glunn and Brandon like this

I agree that Viola should not be considered a Twins insider and I would be pleasantly surprised if he were hired.  I personally would be more inclined to look at some of the organizations that are more well thought of than the Mets for an outsider.  Perhaps the Giants, Cardinals, or Rays.

    • glunn likes this
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nicksaviking
Nov 03 2014 10:25 AM

I loved Viola, though while his 'playing days' pitching philosphy of change up, change up, change up would likley appeal to an organization that loves the pitch, I wonder if that would raise those strikeout totals mentioned above.

 

Let's also look into St. Louis' minor league pitching coaches.Perhaps it's just their scouting, but someone over there certainly knows how to get those young guys ready for the MLB.

    • glunn likes this

Just because Viola The Pitcher was changeup, changeup, changeup, doesn't mean that Viola The Pitching Coach subscribes to that. Hopefully a pitching coach will look at each individual and find what will help them be more successful.

 

Also, the changeup is such an important pitch in baseball.

    • glunn likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Nov 03 2014 11:00 AM
A coaching staff with Bruno, Steiny, and Frankie V. would remind me a lot of a Kubel, Bartlett, Guerrier reunion.
    • USAFChief, gil4 and jctwins like this

A coaching staff with Bruno, Steiny, and Frankie V. would remind me a lot of a Kubel, Bartlett, Guerrier reunion.

Yeah, except all the guys in the first group have rings and the guys in the second group don't...

    • gil4, James, Hosken Bombo Disco and 2 others like this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Nov 03 2014 11:11 AM

Yeah, except all the guys in the first group have rings and the guys in the second group don't...

You got me - that one went 449 feet to left center. :)

My point is I want to be surprised by some of the new coaches, as in a couple guys from Latin America or guys I've never heard of.
    • big dog likes this
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Kirby_waved_at_me
Nov 03 2014 11:21 AM

Candidates I'd like the Twins to consider (in no order):  

Pedro Martinez

Mike Maddux

Greg Maddux

Ray Searage (Pirates' Pitching Coach; former teammate of Paul Molitor)

Cuellar

Cardinals' Minor League Pitching Coaches

 

Candidates I would NOT like the Twins to consider:

Bert Blyleven

Rick Anderson

Dick Such

Ron Davis

Rick Ankiel

A.J. Pierzynski

Ozzie Guillen

 

WILDCARDS!

Jack Morris

Brad Radke

Leo Mazzone

Bill "Spaceman" Lee (come on, how much fun would that be?)

Trevor Hoffman

Eddie Guardado

Carl Willis

Rick Reed

    • glunn and Brandon like this
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James Richter
Nov 03 2014 12:20 PM

There is a shift in personnel already underway which is improving the Twins' strikeout numbers. If you look at the starters full-season K/9, the Twins' staff is 29th. In the 2nd half, though, they were 21st. Nolasco's rate improved (back toward his career norms) after his DL stint, Gibson's rate improved (the result of his increasing MLB experience, perhaps?), exchanging Correia for May made a huge difference, and introducing Meyer will continue the trend. The upper minors is littered with hard-throwing, bat-missing relievers who can contribute to higher K rates in the bullpen.

 

The piece I think a pitching coach might be able to improve is the 2014 Twins' ghastly strand rate. Across the board, Twins pitchers seemed to be susceptible to big innings. Improving the numbers out of the stretch and for the 1st hitter the relievers face would have made an incredible difference in staff ERA, especially in the 2nd half. Whoever they hire, I hope he has a plan to make the pitchers better with men on base.

    • glunn likes this
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fridleyphil
Nov 03 2014 12:33 PM

I we can't get Spaceman, I would like to see former Twin Mike Marshall get a shot.At least give him a shot in the Minors as a roving instructor.

    • glunn likes this
First off... I don't have an opinion and I won't have an opinion... Other than hoping that Molly hires a guy who can get the most of our staff. I have no idea who that guy could possibly be.

With that said... I wonder if Bert Be Home By Eleven is drawing any consideration.

It may seem like an odd choice to some... But... The Dutch pitching staffs performed well in the WBC's under Bert.

And... And... Bert would be able to CIRCLE mechanical trouble spots when going over video.

Ricky Nolasco... Your release point is too high.. This is causing your pitch to sail up in the zone.... You are hereby circled.

Trevor May... Your strike foot is landing inconsistently... This is giving you your control problems... You are hereby circled.
    • gil4 and Dman like this
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nicksaviking
Nov 03 2014 12:45 PM

Just because Viola The Pitcher was changeup, changeup, changeup, doesn't mean that Viola The Pitching Coach subscribes to that. Hopefully a pitching coach will look at each individual and find what will help them be more successful.

 

Also, the changeup is such an important pitch in baseball.

 

I'd hope a pitching coach would teach players individually and Viola likely would, but it's not a given that's how it would work.Surely some guys teach what they know.It seemed like Gardy did most of the time.

 

We are assuming that Molitor will pick out his staff, but as he's an inexperienced manager and an internal hire.The hiring process also played out a lot longer than we expected.Through negotiation, it's quite possible Ryan told Molitor that the input for these coaches was largely going to come from the GM.

 

I'd prefer Molitor gets to pick his staff exclusive of the GM's preference, but I guess it works out both ways.What if Molitor decided to do The Old Boy's Club bit and no Latin coaches were chosen?Ryan made it pretty clear he would like a Latin presence.

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nicksaviking
Nov 03 2014 12:48 PM

With that said... I wonder if Bert Be Home By Eleven is drawing any consideration.

It may seem like an odd choice to some... But... The Dutch pitching staffs performed well in the WBC's under Bert.

 

And... And... Bert would be able to CIRCLE mechanical trouble spots when going over video.
.

 

Bert does seem to have the ability to teach pitching and even more importantly, the knack for diagnosing problems and attacking batters.

 

Still, with his broadcasts the last several years, and his vacation schedule, I get the feeling that he doesn't have the desire for a full-time gig anymore.

    • big dog likes this

Bert does seem to have the ability to teach pitching and even more importantly, the knack for diagnosing problems and attacking batters.
 
Still, with his broadcasts the last several years, and his vacation schedule, I get the feeling that he doesn't have the desire for a full-time gig anymore.


Yeah... But he can circle things!!!
    • big dog and Hosken Bombo Disco like this
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Kirby_waved_at_me
Nov 03 2014 12:59 PM

I wonder if Famous / Hall Of Fame players are seldom coaches because they don't need the money and they'd rather spend time at home with their families.

I wonder if Famous / Hall Of Fame players are seldom coaches because they don't need the money and they'd rather spend time at home with their families.


I've heard it said... Don't know if it's true... But I've heard it said... In a lot of cases... The best of the best can't explain to others how they did it... It just came natural to them.

They never had to think about how they did it... They just fell out of bed doing it.
    • Carole Keller and DocBauer like this
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Kirby_waved_at_me
Nov 03 2014 02:06 PM

I also think the time that Blyleven has spent as color commentator on Twins' broadcasts could only hurt his chances - pretty much every commentator in baseball starts off with great insight. But over time, they start repeating themselves and/or are toned down by their bosses.  

 

Blyleven probably wouldn't say the same things as a coach that he says as a commentator, but I bet the cliches he uses as a commentator would be fuel for his detractors, e.g. "Downward plane," "pitchers are the best athletes," or  any of these   

Any new pitching coach the Twins hire can immediately improve the pitching staff by convincing Ryan and Molitor that outfield defense is indeed important. Put actual "defenders" out there with more speed than Josh WIllingham, more experience than Danny Santana, better instincts than Chris Parmelee and more common sense than Oswaldo Arcia and watch how much the ERA improves.

    • joyzeetwinkee likes this

I we can't get Spaceman, I would like to see former Twin Mike Marshall get a shot.At least give him a shot in the Minors as a roving instructor.

 

Mike Marshal is 72 years old...

If Chris Bosio is dismissed by Chicago with Maddon aboard, he could be a candidate.Molitor's former teammate in Milwaukee.The Cubs haven't be very good, but they've had some decent reclamation pitching projects recently -- Arrieta, Feldman, Maholm.

    • glunn and Brandon like this

Generally not a fan of a team hiring its former players or a manager hiring his former teammates, though.It's not necessarily bad, but it makes you wonder what the criteria is for the position (and makes you wonder how much the team really cares about the position).Especially when an organization/manager does a lot of this sort of hiring.Pitching coach seems like a particularly important position too.

Molitor has never managed.

 

IMO the last thing he needs is to add a pitching coach who has never been a pitching coach.

 

Get someone who has at the least had some successful minor league experience, if you can't get a guy with successful major league experience.

    • ashburyjohn, glunn, USNMCPO and 1 other like this

If Chris Bosio is dismissed by Chicago with Maddon aboard, he could be a candidate.Molitor's former teammate in Milwaukee.The Cubs haven't be very good, but they've had some decent reclamation pitching projects recently -- Arrieta, Feldman, Maholm.

 

With his track record, the Cubs would be crazy to let Bosio go. I'd hire him in a heartbeat. I would like any of the pitching coaches that have a reputation for turning around careers. Ray Searage, Bosio, Mickey Callaway come to mind.

 

It's unlikely to steal one of those guys, so I'd go after an organizational guy from one of the teams that consistently have good pitching like the Cardinals. 

 

Also put me down for wanting nothing to do with Jack Morris or Bert Blyleven. The old-school attitudes of those two are the opposite direction the Twins should be going. 

I would like any of the pitching coaches that have a reputation for turning around careers. Ray Searage, Bosio, Mickey Callaway come to mind.

 

Bobby Cuellar does not? Pedro, Johan and the Big Unit... (and that is about 2 HOF careers...)