On Tuesday, the Red Sox shook up their pitching staff a bit by reassigning pitching coach Dana LeVangie to a pro scouting role as well as assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister to a role that will focus on minor-league pitching development. The move doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the team’s pitching woes this year, and is even less of one given this piece from Alex Speier that details some disagreements on the coaching staff between more traditional game preparations and more analytically-based preparations. Of course, as Speier himself notes, the former certainly worked with great success in 2018.
Now, they have to figure out who will replace LeVangie. It will be interesting to see how quickly they move here. On the one hand, they are not the only team looking for a new pitching coach and they don’t want to lose a candidate due to waiting. On the other hand, it could stand to reason that a new GM would want to have a say in this and at least have a conversation with Alex Cora about that.
All of that aside, let’s take a quick look at a handful of names that either could come up as rumors or that I think could be interesting names to watch. I will note that it’s hard from the outside to really detail who would be a good candidate for this job. It is one based heavily in behind-the-scenes communication, and to know the best fit you need to know the personalities of not only the prospective coaches but also the pitchers themselves. That said, these are some names that I would like to discuss briefly as something of a primer for the upcoming search.
When Callaway was fired from his position as Mets manager, he immediately came to mind as a possible pitching coach candidate for the Red Sox. While he seemed over his head as manager, he thrived before that as pitching coach in Cleveland. He’s noted for strong communication skills and was the coach that helped usher in guys like Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco as star-caliber pitchers. The big question is whether or not Callaway will want to take a step back into a pitching coach job or if he wants to try and manage again right away.
You can be sure we’ll here plenty about the former Pirates pitching coach in the coming days and weeks. Searage is something of a legend at this position who was known as one of, if not the, best pitching coaches in the game for most of his tenure. He was fired by Pittsburgh shortly before this season ended. For as great as track record is, I want no part of Searage. He is a guy that it seems the game has left behind, and the Pirates ability to develop pitching has fallen off precipitously in recent years. Look no further than guys like Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow excelling immediately after leaving the organization as potential proof of that.
Eiland is another interesting name who is a veteran in this job. He has served as pitching coach for three teams over the last decade, winning World Series with the Yankees in 2009 and the Royals in 2015. He most recently worked for the Mets but was let go about midway through this season. It is worth noting that in 2018, his only full season with the Mets, Jacob deGrom put up one of the best individual seasons in recent memory. Of course, it’s hard to know just how much of that, if any, was due to Eiland.
I am putting Varitek here because I think a lot of people will be asking about him as this search really gets underway. The former captain is obviously a fan favorite around these parts, and for good reason. He was one of the best communicators behind the plate during his playing days who could form great connections with his pitchers. It is rare to see former catchers in this role, though it’s worth noting that Dave Duncan is regarded as one of the best pitching coaches of all time and he was a former catcher. Even so, if Varitek is to climb the coaching ladder it is likely going to be as a bench coach then manager, not as a pitching coach.
I will readily admit that I am heavily influenced by some recency bias here having recently read this piece from Pedro Moura on the former elite pitching prospect. Prior’s story as a major leaguer is one of the most disappointing of the last 20 years (probably more than that), but he has re-emerged in recent years as a coach. He currently serves as the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, and the aforementioned Moura piece paints Prior as a guy who is brutally honest with his pitchers in a way that is appreciated by most. It also discusses how seriously Prior has taken the analytical side of the game and his ability to communicate these game plan tidbits to his players. As mentioned above, that is seemingly important for the Red Sox.
another recently-retired pitcher (there are to many Chris Youngs, imo) a guy who has moved up the ranks quickly thanks to his ability to take in and communicate analysis from the front office. He was the pitching coach for the Phillies this past year but fired after the season ended. That is not the best sign, but we see all the time that managers do much better in their second job than their first. Why couldn’t it be the same for a pitching coach?
I stole this one from The Athletic, but I dig it. For one thing, Atchison pitched in Boston as recently as 2012, so he knows the market. More importantly, the now Indians bullpen coach is spoken very highly of by Terry Francona, a man whose opinion I will always respect. Like the other younger options mentioned here, Atchison comes from an analytical background.