Ok, my prediction that Barry Larkin will get some serious notice when the managerial carousel begins this season is pretty much on the mark. Everything else I said regarding the World Baseball Classic? Not so much. In an attempt to save face, I’ve decided to turn my attention to another pool of countries. Let’s look at one I actually know something about.
Hello Team USA!
As the clock ticks down to Team USA’s first official game, Greg Maddux walked out to the mound to visit Derek Holland. This time though it was as a pitching coach and not an ace. However, every time Maddux went to the mound to pitch in his career (22 seasons and 355 major-league victories), he was doing it as a pitching coach…kinda of.
Take that Eric Gagne! (He was the pitching coach for Team France which failed to qualify.)
Are you surprised though? Greg Maddux was always a lesson in “what to do” for pitchers in both dugouts. He was and is a constant reminder of the lethal properties hiding in an 88 m.p.h. fastball.
Ask folks like R.A. Dickey.
Joe Torre, Team USA’s manager, said he contacted Maddux before any other potential member of his coaching staff. The belief that working in the WBC “imperils arms” demanded a reassuring presence, especially because pitchers in the WBC are expected to be ready faster. “I just felt it was important to have a pitching coach who knows what it’s like to go through spring training, and he was playing, what, four years ago?” Torre said to MLB.com. “It’s a security blanket for a lot of the pitchers here.”
Probably for a fair amount of General Managers as well.
Maddux took a day to answer Torre’s request, clearing the idea with his family. “I wanted to do it the minute I hung up,” he said. “But you’ve got to take care of the other side of your life.” Maddux spent the last three seasons as a special instructor for the Cubs and Rangers. His responsibilities have been limited, allowing for a normal family life relative to his years as a player.
Maddux hadn’t studied the effect of WBC participation on arms, but he committed to running the staff exactly as if it were prepping to start a full MLB season. “I know the intensity of the games is a lot more,” he said. “But the physical load of it’s going to be no different from what they’re accustomed to this time of year in spring training.”
Maddux has to defer to some pretty strict WBC ground rules (no more than 65 pitches per appearance in this opening round) and the concerns of his pitchers’ regular coaches. But he’s free to coach in the most important ways, advising on technique or massaging a pickoff move. More than free, actually. “That’s one of my obligations,” he said.
It might also have been one of Torre’s recruiting tools.
“I think it made a lot of… managers comfortable (about pitchers leaving spring camps for the WBC),” he said, “because let’s think about it. Their pitchers have a chance to spend these weeks with Greg Maddux. That’s pretty good tutoring.” Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants’ postseason ace of 2012, didn’t hesitate when asked what he most wanted to learn from Maddux: “The backdoor two-seamer to a righty. I have my first bullpen session with him tomorrow, and we’re going to dive into it.”