Twins Daily (TD): Thanks for taking the time to chat, Mike. I’m interested in illuminating for folks what coaching looks like in baseball and the Twins organization. Let’s start by hearing about your journey to becoming a pitching coach. Is that always something you wanted to do?
Mike McCarthy (MM): I played six-and-a-half years with the Red Sox and made it to AAA. I learned how to throw really good batting practice starting at around 7:05 pm for three of four innings until they got me out of there. I was always interested in scouting reports and analytics. I was also always interested in teaching and helping others, and I’m always brought back to ‘how do I leave the world better than I found it’? So I always enjoy the opportunity to connect with people and help them get better at what they’re passionate about. One day I got a call from Gabe Kapler asking if I was interested in interviewing for a job and that’s how I met Jeremy Zoll. I did my interview for the Twins from Argentina working for a non-profit via Whats-App. This has led me to coach at a level I never thought I would be at.
TD: What has your experience been with the Twins so far? What have you appreciated about the approach of this organization and front office?
MM: The biggest thing is it’s an authentic organization which treats people the right way. We want to win baseball games, that’s a priority, but we want to do it the right way and I try to live my life that way as well. To be part of an organization that operates that way is a great feeling, and that’s something we work to replicate within our pitching department. We’re always looking outside the box to answer the question ‘how can we be a little bit better tomorrow than we were today’? We approach the work with humility and healthy criticism. That dynamic is really exciting for me.
TD: What is the process when you get access to a pitcher for the first time? Let’s say a guy is claimed off waivers or promoted. What kind of process do you go through in beginning a working relationship with that player?
MM: Two very different processes. If a guy is claimed, the first thing we do is look at where he’s been at, how has been throwing, what are his trends? We’ll look at K:BB ratio, pitch usage, movement plots, how were his last few outings? Most importantly is connecting with the player, letting him know we are excited to work with him, we’re here for him and want to help him get better. We gather as an organization to determine how he best fits and what’s the best direction to go with a new player. Number one thing, I’m going to meet the player where he’s at. He’s going through a challenging time and I want him to feel comfortable.
If a guy is promoted, the first thing is connecting with our AA pitching coaches, seeing where he's at and what he has been working on, his player plan and how we can help him move forward. We also want to know what does he respond well to, or not well to, is he analytically minded or do we want to keep things more simple?
TD: How have y’all managed to balance pitcher workload this year? After an unprecedented lost season, how have you balanced giving guys the necessary innings while protecting arms?
MM: It’s been a challenge. We’re taking on an obstacle we’ve never seen in baseball. We have to be really diligent. We’re talking to players regularly, we’re looking at velocities to see if they are tapering off and really just monitoring work loads as best we can. We are trying to balance and ensure guys continue to get their workload so they can develop and get better. It’s a fine line, we collaborate as a group and make the best action plan we possibly can for each individual guy.
TD: What does the interplay look like between St. Paul and the MLB organization and front office as far as player development goes? How do you arrive at what guys need to work on?
MM: It’s definitely collaborative. It’s about what our data analysts see, our pitching coordinators see, what our coaches see who are with guys more than anyone else. All of those things come together with what the major league staff sees as well. We also get the input of the player and try and put that all together and make the best game plan possible. We ask ‘what is the next step forward for this guy to be an impact MLB arm?’ Sometimes that’s a mechanical goal, a pitch development goal, it could be an execution goal, but we want to make clear and defined goals to help guys with their development.
TD: What are some of the nastiest pitches at AAA right now that Twins fans should be excited about for 2022 and beyond?
MM: You look at a guy like Jovani Moran and see his changeup and say ‘good lord, that’s going to play for a while’. Cano, the sinker. His changeup has also really developed well this season. Drew Strotman is another. You have a big carry fastball there, a changeup with some good fade to it, and a slider which has performed well, but we think there is room for it to get even better. He’s got some big upside. Also Joe Ryan, the invisible fastball which he demonstrated over the last few weeks with the Olympic team. There’s a lot of guys we’re excited over the next few weeks, next few months, and next few years.
TD: Speaking of Joe Ryan, has he joined up with the team yet? What is the plan for incorporating him into the rotation?
MM: He’s in transit. He’ll be jumping into the team in the next two weeks.
TD: Last question. It’s also noticeable from your presence on social media that servant leadership is important to you. Is there any work or organization you are involved with that Twins Daily readers can learn about and support?
MM: I appreciate that. Baseball Miracles is an awesome group. It’s an organization I’ve worked with for eight years now. I think the most important thing is finding ways to go out and serve your community. It’s been a challenging year for people, whether through COVID or anything else. Seeing how we can be servants to the world around us, making the world a little bit better whether that’s signing an autograph for a kid or holding doors for people. These simple acts of random kindness go a long way in our lives, seek to serve and make the world a better place. Thank you for asking that question.
TD: Mike, thank you so much for your generosity, time, and insight, keep up the great work in Saint Paul.