LAS VEGAS — When it comes to getting more out of the Cubs’ hitters in 2019, the Cubs’ brass and manager Joe Maddon literally are studying methods for managing and communicating with millennials.
But when it comes to the staff, they went straight to the source for a new pitching coach.
Tommy Hottovy, 37, takes his first coaching job less than five years after throwing his last professional pitch as a spring-training teammate of Cubs pitchers Pedro Strop and Kyle Hendricks.
Since then, he has spent the last four seasons in a scouting and strategy role for the Cubs’ staff, working closely with strategy coach Mike Borzello, bullpen coach Lester Strode and pitching coaches Chris Bosio and Jim Hickey (who resigned for personal reasons).
“When I first got into that role, [the pitching coach job] was not my ultimate goal,” said Hottovy, who has been working closely with the front office at the winter meetings this week in Las Vegas. “It was to get in and try to make some cool things happen and kind of transition where I felt like the game was going.”
Both he and his bosses suggest the relationships built in that time should help make his transition especially smooth and help maintain the strength of one of baseball’s most productive staffs over the last three years.
As unconventional as the hiring might seem at first glance, Hottovy called the transition from the strategic/analytic role to coach “more of an evolution of how this role evolved.”
If the timing was sudden, Hottovy seems to have adjusted quickly.
“As a pitching coach you want your guys to improve; you want them to get better,” said Hottovy, who pitched briefly in the majors for the Red Sox and Royals in 2011-12.
“That’s no different than the role I was in. I’m here for them.”
Team president Theo Epstein said the continuity of the pitching infrastructure was a key to the decision.
“Tommy’s a tremendous communicator, great worker, great teammate, and he’s got terrific relationships with the pitchers,” Epstein said.
Hottovy said he hopes to visit each Cubs pitcher before spring training starts and already was able to get together with reliever Brandon Kintzler in Las Vegas.
“I was fortunate enough to be with Joe [Maddon] four years now, learn from Theo and Jed [Hoyer] for a while and continue to,” he said. “And then also I was in camp [as a pitcher] with Bosio and was with him for three years [on the staff], and I was with Hickey for last year. I’ve been around some really good and intelligent pitching coaches, and I’m just going to continue to learn and try to implement things that I’ve gotten from them for those four years.”