Chicago Cubs: New pitching coach is a perfect Epstein hire
Last winter, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer seemingly let manager Joe Maddon have guys he knew and felt comfortable with in longtime big league coaching staff mainstays Chili Davis and Jim Hickey. That love affair turned south rather quickly – and Epstein reassumed control of his organization this offseason, refusing to discuss a new deal with Maddon and going with more forward-thinking, innovative hires to fill the vacancies on the coaching staff.
Replacing Hickey is former run prevention specialist Tommy Hottovy, a highly intellectual former big leaguer who has worked with Epstein and Maddon since the Cubs brought in the former Tampa Bay skipper ahead of the 2015 season.
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Patrick Mooney of The Athletic penned an excellent piece (sub required) on the new Chicago pitching coach earlier this week – and it’s absolutely worth a read. But one bit, in particular, jumped out at me (aside from the fact that he essentially cold-called Epstein to get his foot in the door in the Cubs’ front office).
"“Tommy has been a vital part of our team for a few years now,” Kyle Hendricks wrote in a text message. “I’m excited for him to get this opportunity. He’s an extremely hard worker and buys into the group. He just wants to be a resource to help anyone get better. He’s really good at the advanced game planning now, but he also can break down video and help with mechanical cues as well. The pitchers as a whole know what to expect from him, so having that comfortability should allow us all to develop and just focus on winning.”"
Personally, I continue to view Kyle Hendricks as one of – if not the – most cerebral players in the game today. So for him to offer this kind of praise of Hottovy bodes well for the Cubs’ new pitching coach. Chicago has to find a way to get guys like Brandon Kintzler, Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish back on track in 2019 – and Hottovy is just the guy for the job, a perfect blend of analytics and familiarity that should lessen the learning curve for Cubs hurlers.