The Obligatory Pitching Coach Post

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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees made a somewhat surprising move yesterday when Brian Cashman announced that pitching coach Dave Eiland will not return for the 2011 season. He said the reason was “private” and declined to elaborate, but there’s a good chance that Eiland’s month-long leave of absence in June contributed to his departure. Cashman also indicated that it was his decision alone, and there’s nothing manager Joe Girardi could have said or done to change his mind. That tells you that Cash’s mind was made up a while ago.

Anyway, regardless of why Eiland is no longer with the team, the Yankees will move forward and presumably begin the search for a new pitching coach almost immediately. There are no shortage of candidates out there, but as fans how do we know what a pitching coach really does? How do we know his strengths and weakness when we almost never see him at work? It’s almost impossible for us to judge these guys from the outside, but that’s not going to stop us from talking about it.

Below is a list of potential candidates for the job, but don’t take this as my recommendation or anything like that. It’s just a list of guys that could be considered and their qualifications. That’s pretty much it. Feel free to form your own opinions, but remember that they don’t mean anything. The Yanks will conduct a thorough search and interview process, and make the best decision they can based on that.

These guys are listed alphabetically, so don’t read into the order at all. On to the list…

Scott Aldred

Aldred is essentially the next Dave Eiland, working his way up through the Yanks’ minor league ladder as a pitching coach. He held the position with Double-A Trenton in 2007 and 2008 before moving up to Triple-A Scranton the last two years. Aldred’s minor league career has allowed him to work with basically every young pitcher on the big league staff, namely Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Ivan Nova. That familiarity works in his favor, but Aldred has zero coaching experience at the major league level.

His playing career is nothing to write home about; six teams in parts of eight-plus seasons with a 6.02 ERA, but that tells you nothing about his skills as a pitching coach.

Nardi Contreras

The Yanks’ minor league pitching guru, Contreras currently spends his time working with minor leaguers, refining their deliveries and mechanics with a high degree of success. He served as the Yanks’ pitching coach in 1995 before moving on to the Mariners (1997-1998) and White Sox (1998-2002) in the same capacity, returning to New York in 2005. Aside from Eiland, no one knows the Yankee pitching staff – not to mention the young players coming up through the system – better. He might be too valuable in his current role, but we can’t write him off as a candidate.

Mike Harkey

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees’ current bullpen coach and long-time pal of Girardi, Harkey served as the pitching coach for Triple-A Iowa (Cubs) before coming to the Bronx in 2008. He has no experience as a full-time pitching coach in the big leagues, though he did fill in for Eiland when he was on his leave of absence this June. The lack of coaching experience certainly hurts, but Harkey is familiar with the staff, and that shouldn’t be discounted. He might be the front-runner for the job just based on his current position with the Yanks, but I definitely wouldn’t consider him a shoo-in.

Joe Kerrigan

The Yankees’ bullpen coach in 2006 and 2007, Kerrigan has experience as a pitching coach with the Expos (1992-1996), Red Sox (1997-2001), Phillies (2003-2004), and Pirates (2008-2010). Pittsburgh cut him lose in August because their pitching staff was horrifically bad, but his reputation within the game is pretty strong. Kerrigan might not even be a candidate for the job, but I wanted to cover all my bases and at least list him as a possibility.

Rick Kranitz

The current Orioles’ pitching coach was Girardi’s pitching coach with the Marlins in 2006, when he was named Baseball America’s Major League Coach Of The Year in his first season on the job. He resigned from that position during the 2007 season and joined Baltimore in 2008, though new manager Buck Showalter is still in the process of determining his 2011 coaching staff. There’s a chance Kranitz will be let go as Buck brings in his own people, freeing him up to rejoin Girardi in New York.

Leo Mazzone

Mazzone made a name for himself the Braves, coaching three Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Those three will make anyone look good, but Mazzone also guided guys like Denny Neagle, Jaret Wright, and Russ Ortiz to the best seasons of their careers, only to watch them fall apart once leaving town. Mazzone left the Braves in 2005 and served as Baltimore’s pitching coach until being fired after the 2007 season. He hasn’t coached since and co-hosts a radio show in Atlanta.

Curt Young

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The A’s long-time pitching coach (2004-2010), Young declined the team’s contract offer this past weekend and to seek opportunities elsewhere. His time in Oakland gave him ample opportunity to work with young pitchers, namely Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden. Their pitching staff has consistently been one of the best in the league, though having a strong defense and favorable home park played into that. Young also has some ties to the Yanks, albeit loose ones; he threw 43.1 innings in pinstripes in the second half of the 1992 season. I would be surprised if he didn’t at least interview for the Yanks’ job.

Carl Willis

The current pitching coach in Seattle, Willis was promoted to that position this past August when the Mariners fired basically their entire coaching staff. Before that he spent seven seasons as the pitching coach for the Indians (2003-2009), which means he’s very familiar with CC Sabathia and top free agent target Cliff Lee. With former Indians manager Eric Wedge taking over in Seattle, Willis may not even consider changing jobs right now.

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  • Jimmy McNulty

    Would Mike Harkey even fit in the dugout with the rest of the team?

    • Big Stein

      He is tall, but I think he can fit into the dugout. and if necessary, they can always lower the floor a couple of inches.

  • CanoFTW

    Probably not even a remote possibility but it would be pretty cool to see David Cone as the pitching coach…

  • Jimmy McNulty

    Mike. Fucking. Mussina.

    • J.R.

      As I recall, he wasn’t well liked in the clubhouse. He had the reputation of being elitist and would complain when he had to break his typical 5 day schedule.

      Maybe he would be different as a coach, but that’s not exactly a personality you need to bring back.

      That being said, I do remember him also asking for Hughes and IPK to have lockers next to his, so he has shown that he enjoys aspects of coaching.

    • cr1

      Moose would roll his eyes at Girardi and turn around and walk off if a reporter addressed a question to him.

      Other than that, terrific idea.

      • Pat D

        He once did that to a friend of mine way back in 2001.

        • Big Stein

          tell us more

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    Of the ones you listed I like Aldridge Aldred and Willis the best.

    Aldred for his familiarity with the young pitchers we have on our staff. Which is the same reason why Eiland got hired, no?

    Willis for his familiarity with the big man.

    Other names I’ve seen mentioned by various people:

    Al Leiter
    David Cone
    Dave Righetti (although after his team making it to the WS, I doubt he leaves)
    Greg Maddux

    • James

      If Leiter is available (as he splits time with both the YES Network and the MLB Network) he might be a good option. He’s knowledgable and connects with viewers well… I’m sure he could connect with the staff well also.

      I seriously doubt Mussina would even consider it, considering he retired two years ago to spend more time with his family. The dude could be the 5th starter on the Yankees right now even after a 2 season layoff.

      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        I bet MLBN and YES would release him from their contracts if the Yankees really wanted to hire him.

  • Hughesus Christo

    Mark “The Thunder from Down Under” Hutton

    Any MLB experience? Nope. Is he coaching something somewhere? Maybe. Did he play for the Yankees at some point? Yes.

    Done deal.

    • Slugger27

      i don’t get it

      • Hughesus Christo

        It’s very meta.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    Whoever the Yankees hire I have faith that it will be because they like his credentials as an instructor and wasn’t just someone who was good at pitching. I’m not saying that all good pitchers can’t be good teachers.

    cough cough Ron Guidry cough cough

  • Big Stein

    Randy Johnson

    maybe, Curt Schilling.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Josh Beckett.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Old Hoss Radbourn.

        • Big Stein

          Art Fowler

          bob Lemon

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Babe Ruth.

          • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

            Jon Papelbon

            He can teach everyone the splitter and then how to abandon it and throw 100% fastballs.

            It works 80% of the time, every time

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Sidney Ponson.

              “See what I did there? Make sure you never ever do that.”

              • Big Stein

                Rob Dibble.

                He can also serve as the team’s orthopedic specialist.

                • Jorge

                  Casey Kelly.

        • lordbyron

          Old Hoss better be in the running- though he may be difficult to locate. He certainly racked up some bigtime numbers in his day!

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            He can be the first ever TwitterCoach. Just send one of the interns up there with an iPad and Old Hoss will spell out what you’re supposed to do in 140 characters at a time.

            • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

              Dont throw down middle of plate. In my day people were stabbed with sabres for that. #yankees #pitchingtechniques

        • JerseyDutch

          Great idea. He can teach CC how to start every game and we can cut the rest of the pitching staff loose.

  • mike

    Eiland was cheating on his wife and she found out. That is why he had to leave team during the season.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Incarcerated Bob’d

      • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

        *3 Sources confirmed*

      • Hughesus Christo

        Here was Mike’s I-Bob moment:

        “Kerrigan might not even be a candidate for the job, but I wanted to cover all my bases and at least list him as a possibility.”

    • Esteban

      This is a guess, right?

      • mike

        no, i actually know the girl. im not friends with her, but i know her. im not just making this stuff up, you dont have to believe it if you dont want to, just trying to share the info that i have.

        • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

          I’m sure you understand why I don’t believe you, right? It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just that here we are, on a Yankee blog and you’re passing along this information that has no confirmed sources.

          • mike

            i understand 100% why you dont believe me, trust me. im not trying to spread rumors or be a jerk or anything, its just every article i read always references his unexplained absense, so im trying to help people get an explanation.

            you dont know me, i dont know you but i have absolutely no reason to make this up, im not that type of person, but again, since you dont know me, you have no way to know that that isnt just BS.

            believe me if you want, dont believe me if you want as well, im just trying to let people know what i know. my feelings will not be hurt if you guys dont believe me.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Source: people I trust

              /ZZ’d

        • Big Stein

          is she hot?

          • J.R.

            At least this question is pertinent.

    • Murakami

      SJ, is that you?

      /sycophant’d

  • http://www.bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com BleednYankeeBlu

    I see Curt Young interviewing for sure. Harkey, yes, and man i’d love to see mazzone. He had a good staff in atlanta for years he made better, and he didn’t have a good time in Baltimore. Probably becase the Orioles didn’t give him good pitching. The Yanks HAVE good pitching, he’ll improve them. I dont see Guidry coming back, but i’d like that as well.

    • Big Stein

      mazzone will be 63. Isn’t that a little long in the tooth.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      I doubt Mazzone even interviews. At 62 I don’t think he’d want to jump back into the daily grind of being a pitching coach. I’m sure he is perfectly happy just kickin it with his radio show.

      Pass on Guidry.

  • Clay Bellinger

    Nice rundown on the list of candidates…Curt Young seems intriguing

  • Murakami

    Off-topic question:

    Is Cliff Lee’s wife really Laura Bush?

    I am starting to despise Lee.

    Let him re-sign with the Texans.

    • Big Stein

      you mean because she didn’t like fans spitting and throwing beer on the texas section.

      really, I’ve always been embarrassed by knuckleheads who abuse out of town fans.

      • Murakami

        Since I was actually there, seated in the handicapped section just above 226, I’d say Mrs. Lee is singling out 1 or 2 idiots for her own purposes.

        Were you there?? The entire visiting team’s family section was directly in front of me. I saw the beer go flying, and the people attempting to locate the offending person, of their own volition, to help security. Oh yeah, those people trying to help were GASP Yankee fans.

        The little group of Texans were also trying to provoke, with their insipid little chants that went on as the score rose to 8-0, they pogo-ed up and down, waved their banners even though people complained they couldn’t see when they did it, and the embalmed-looking, coiffed little wifies made an endless procession to and from somewhere – the ladies’ room, I suppose? – during a game ostensibly important to their team’s playoff fortunes, but I guess they figured Cliffie had it under control and putting on lipstick was eminently more important.

        The majority of people responded to the game, like any reasonable fan body with a team playing a game with high stakes would. No one was going to be acting like a welcoming committee, fawning over Texas wives and circulating cucumber sandwiches and dacqueries.

        Fans were concerned with trying to will their team to win a swing playoff game (this was Game 3).

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Since I was actually there, seated in the handicapped section just above 226, I’d say Mrs. Lee is singling out 1 or 2 idiots for her own purposes.

          Were you there?? The entire visiting team’s family section was directly in front of me. I saw the beer go flying, and the people attempting to locate the offending person, of their own volition, to help security. Oh yeah, those people trying to help were GASP Yankee fans.

          The little group of Texans were also trying to provoke, with their insipid little chants that went on as the score rose to 8-0, they pogo-ed up and down, waved their banners even though people complained they couldn’t see when they did it, and the embalmed-looking, coiffed little wifies made an endless procession to and from somewhere – the ladies’ room, I suppose? – during a game ostensibly important to their team’s playoff fortunes, but I guess they figured Cliffie had it under control and putting on lipstick was eminently more important.

          The majority of people responded to the game, like any reasonable fan body with a team playing a game with high stakes would. No one was going to be acting like a welcoming committee, fawning over Texas wives and circulating cucumber sandwiches and dacqueries.

          Fans were concerned with trying to will their team to win a swing playoff game (this was Game 3).

          http://riveraveblues.com/off-topic-8/

    • Joe West’s Music Career

      So much no to all of this.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder
      • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

        Honestly that’s too off topic for even the off topic thread.

        Here is the right link for matters such as those.

  • Dave the Ox

    Nolan Ryan.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Bill “Spaceman” Lee.

      • Big Stein

        Carl Pavano could be a player/coach.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          He’d fit in nicely next to Jeter the player/owner.

          #wishespeoplewouldunderstandtheCBA

  • Doug

    Young is apparently the frontrunner for the Red Sox pitching coach opening

    • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

      So says Gordon Edes, the completely unbiased scribe for ESPNBoston.com.

      • Big Stein

        well, how wouldn’t want to coach the Five Aces.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          The Boston pitching coach job is the easiest in all of baseball. Just roll out of bed and send another ace up to the hill.

          The trips to the mound he and Francona take during the season is just because they’re bored sitting in the dugout watching another ho-hum easy victory and they want to talk about the Celtics or the Patriots.

          • Big Stein

            It must be heady to coach five future first-ballot-hall-of-famers.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Mitch Williams is probably floating his name through back channels as we speak.

  • Johnny O

    There’s some guy toiling around in the Mexican league, but I heard he’s ready to come back to the States. Plus he may or may not be familiar with Alfredo Aceves, although this guy is the original Mexican Gangster. He is non other than Kenny F*cking Powers.

    If this were in english, it would have read 101.

    • vin

      La Flama Blanca!

    • Big Stein

      you’re fucking out dave island, I’m fucking in!

  • Frank

    MLBTR is reporting Young will likely be interviewed by the RS.

    Willis seems to make sense given his relationships with CC and Lee. Is he willing to leave Seattle for NY?

  • Big Stein

    How ’bout Kenny Powers

  • Dick Whitman

    Forgot Venditte.

    • vin

      I like that. He can work with everybody.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        He can make both our lefties and our righties mediocre pitchers.

  • http://www.bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com BleednYankeeBlu

    Ok, no Mazzone, so what are we thinking? Mussina? he’s home on a tractor, i don’t see that happening. what’s scott erickson doing these days. i’m joking but i honestly can’t think of anyone.

  • Rey22

    Mariano Rivera.

  • JerseyDutch

    Aldred. It’s going to be Aldred. Book it.

  • JohnathanCold

    Rick Ankiel should be on the list.

  • Jerome S

    Any HOF pitcher who recently retired.

    -Pedro
    -Maddux
    -Randy Johnson
    -Roger Clemens
    -John Smoltz (eeeww)
    -Tom Glavine
    For shits and giggles, El Duque.

  • http://inboundinternetmarketing.com John Flynn

    Joe Kerrigan oh please GOD not Joe Kerrigan.

  • http://www.bleedingyankeeblue.blogspot.com BleednYankeeBlu

    those candidates suck.

  • Chris in Maine

    Come on, how come Billy Conners is not listed…

    Being serious now, how about Al Leiter?

  • Jeremy

    Do I have to be the first jerk to point out that in a truly alphabetical list one would think Willis would come before rather than after Young?

  • Yankeegirl49

    No one mentioned Jimmy Key..may as well throw his name in with the rest of them

  • Robb

    Seriously, what about Gil Patterson. How long is his contract with the A’s?

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