Results tagged ‘ Brandon Hyde ’

Cubs announce 2015 coaching staff


Manager Rick Renteria’s 2015 staff has been finalized. (Photo by Stephen Green)

The Cubs announced their 2015 coaching staff Thursday, and it includes a few new faces as well as a member shifting roles in manager Rick Renteria’s crew.

John Mallee has been named the new hitting coach, while Doug Dascenzo will take over first base/outfield coaching duties. Last season’s first base coach Eric Hinske will shift to assistant hitting coach.

Chris Bosio (pitching coach), Brandon Hyde (bench coach), Gary Jones (third base/infield coach), Lester Strode (bullpen coach), Mike Borzello (catching and strategy coach), Jose Castro (quality assurance coach) and Franklin Font (staff assistant) return to the coaching staff in their previous roles. Eric Hinske will shift from first base/outfield coach to assistant hitting coach.

Mallee, 45, will replace Bill Mueller as the team’s hitting coach. He’ll begin his fifth season as a major league hitting coach. He previously served as a big league hitting coach with the Marlins (2010-11) and Astros (2013-14).  Overall, Mallee has 19 seasons of experience in pro baseball. Prior to moving to the big leagues, he spent eight-plus seasons as the Marlins minor league hitting instructor. A Chicago native, Mallee also served as a minor league hitting coach within the Brewers and Expos organizations starting in 1996. He spent two seasons as an infielder in the Phillies system from 1991-92.

Dascenzo, 50, joins the Cubs as first base and outfield coach, marking a return to the organization that drafted him in 1985 and for whom he played five big league seasons from 1988-92. Dascenzo served as the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves in 2014, his first as a coach at the big league level. Prior to joining the Braves in 2013 as a minor league outfield/baserunning instructor, he spent 13 seasons as a manager or coach in San Diego’s system. Dascenzo spent seven years in the big leagues as an outfielder and has spent the last 16 years as a coach or instructor starting in 1999.

Bosio, 51, returns for his fourth season as the club’s major league pitching coach. Overall, this is his third stint as a big league pitching coach, previously coaching in the majors for Tampa Bay in 2003 and Milwaukee in 2009. A veteran of 11 big league seasons, the righthander worked as a special assignment pitching coach in Seattle’s system from 2000-02, including a stint as Triple-A Tacoma’s pitching coach, before joining Lou Piniella’s staff in Tampa Bay.

Hyde, 41, enters his second year as bench coach and fourth in the Cubs organization. This is his second stint in the role, previously serving as bench coach for Jack McKeon and the Marlins from June 23, 2010 through 2011. Overall, Hyde has 12 years of coaching experience, including nine seasons in the Marlins chain. Hyde joined the Cubs in December, 2011 as minor league field coordinator and was named director of player development on August 29, 2012.

Jones, 53, returns for his second season as third base coach and infield coach after spending the last 11 years in the Padres organization. Prior to joining the Cubs, he had one year of big league experience as the first base coach for Oakland in 1998. Jones has 15 seasons of experience as a minor league manager, earning four minor league manager of the year awards. He originally signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 1982.

Strode, 56, returns for his ninth season as Cubs bullpen coach and his 27th year in the Cubs organization. Prior to his current role, Strode spent 11 seasons as the organization’s minor league pitching coordinator (1996-2006), two seasons with the big league club as a pitching assistant (1994-95) and five seasons as a minor league pitching coach (1989-1993). Strode pitched professionally in the minor leagues for nine seasons (1980-88).

Hinske, 37, shifts to assistant hitting coach after joining the Cubs staff as first base/outfield coach for the 2014 campaign, replacing Mike Brumley. His 12-year major league career (2002-13) included 2002 American League Rookie of the Year honors with Toronto and three-straight World Series appearances bookended by championships with Boston in 2007 and the New York Yankees in 2009. Hinske was originally selected by the Cubs in the 17th round of the 1998 Draft.

Borzello, 44, enters his fourth season with the Cubs and his second in an expanded role of catching and strategy coach. Prior to joining Chicago, he spent four seasons (2008-11) with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their bullpen catcher, a stint that followed 12 years in the New York Yankees organization starting in 1996 (roles included bullpen catcher and batting practice pitcher). Overall, Borzello has 19 years of experience with three major league clubs.

Castro, 56, returns for his second season as the club’s quality assurance coach after spending the previous 25 years as a minor league hitting coordinator or hitting coach in the Kansas City, Seattle, Florida, San Diego and Montreal organizations. He also served an interim stint as Seattle’s major league hitting coach in 2008.

Font, 36, returns for his 21st season in the Cubs organization, his fourth at the major league level. Font played in the Cubs system for six seasons from 1995-2000 before becoming a Single-A Daytona staff assistant in 2001. He served the Cubs as a minor league manager, hitting coach and coordinator from 2002-11.

Live at CubsCon: Welcome the New Skipper

Jim Deshaies welcomes the crowd and the entire—mostly new—coaching staff. Mike Borzello, Bill Mueller, Mike Brumley, Jose Castro, Brandon Hyde, Chris Bosio, Eric Hinske, Gary Jones and new manager Rick Renteria. The ballroom is packed. Standing room only.

This is mostly a Q&A session with Deshaires moderating.

First question: First impression of Chicago and CubsCon. Renteria says it’s truly unbelievable. The amount of support and the love for Cubs is amazing and wants to prove this team deserves your support.

Renteria says every person on the staff has a tremendous quality of imparting information and confidence, and an array of knowledge. They all have compassion and understanding for players.

Bosio says pitching has made great strides in last few years with Samardzija, Wood, Rondon, etc. They now have more depth, big arms and a lot of talent coming in the system. He wants the staff to give the team a chance to win every game by the sixth inning. They definitely have more depth in the ‘pen with Wesley Wright, who should take some pressure off Russell, and other guys. That should give them more flexibility.

Borzello talks about Welington Castillo’s development as a catcher. He’s really built trust with the pitchers and is helping get the best out of each one. He thinks last year was a great start on a solid career.

Each coach takes a minute to give his bio.

So the big question: Jose Castro. What is a quality assurance coach? Answer: He’s a jack of all trades, master of none. Castro jokes he will probably do some cleaning in clubhouse, laundry, whatever. In reality, he’s an extra pair of hands wherever they’re needed.

Renteria says Veras will anchor the back end of the bullpen. He has confidence that he can get the job done in the ninth inning. That’s why he’s here. But the team should have some flexibility to mix and match in the ‘pen before Veras.

Renteria says the focus shouldn’t be on him. It should be on the players. He wants to be like a little mouse that no one pays attention to. The team and players might at times feel disheartened but he will not let them quit. It’s not in his nature to quit. He’s a fighter. And he doesn’t believe he needs to beat people up to motivate them. If you ever see him quit, he welcomes fans and the media to “come and stomp on him,” but it won’t happen.

Bosio talks about how the staff used to be a bunch of veteran guys. It’s much younger now. The players call the games. It’s about getting them to believe in following the scouting reports and pitching to a plan. Sometimes players go off plan because they have confidence in themselves, but the goal is to follow the scouting reports. They spend countless hours on them.

There’s a question about returning to small ball—steals, sacrifices, hit and runs, etc. Renteria says the game will dictate what they can do, and Mueller talks about the need to really understand the players and what they can do. Then they’ll try to start working on these kinds of skills.

Renteria talks about the role of prospects. Says when a game-changing prospect arrives, it’s probably because he’s going to play. He’s not getting brought up to sit on the bench. Some guys make a splash immediately. Some don’t. He says dealing with prospects who succeed or struggle is all about communication in the system. Even if guys struggle and get sent back down, it can be a valuable experience—a learning experience.

Renteria says he’s not a micromanager. His staff is all very gifted and he’ll leave their jobs to them. But he likes to be active, throw BP, etc. He used to take infield with the players.

In response to a question about finding an everyday third baseman, Renteria throws his support behind the Murphy/Valbuena combo. He says he hates to hear people complain about what they don’t have. Let’s work with what we have and make it work.

In response to the usual World Series question, Renteria says he can’t answer to the past. He’s focused on moving the team forward. And he’s looking forward to the party in this city when it happens.

Mueller talks about really learning the players and finding their strengths and weaknesses, how they handle pressure, how they handle emotions, etc., so they can better help the players understand how to improve at-bats. Every player is different. Swings are very personal. They really need to get in the trenches so they can understand each player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Renteria cites Johnny Lipon (former Tiger infielder and coach) as a big influence because he was so positive. He never let anyone doubt themselves. Says Jim Leyland and Dick Williams were very firm. He tries to combine all of the good things from his former coaches and get rid of the bad traits.

Hinske cites Joe Maddon, Terry Francona and Bobby Cox as big influences. Players can struggle with confidence. Coaches can play a big part in keeping them upbeat.

Jones talks about how his dad taught him how to play to win, but he tried to learn from every coach and manager and take things from them.

Renteria says Starlin Castro is Starlin Castro. We want you to hit the pitch that you can hit, in reference to the push to make him more patient. He says Starlin had some “horrible” at-bats last season where he was swinging at balls in the other batter’s box, but he’s a guy who puts the bat on the ball

Renteria says the team needs to have better at-bats. It’s unacceptable to strike out with the infield back and a man on third.

“We mistake the idea of being a selective hitter with being a good hitter. We’re trying to expand the ability to be a good hitter.”

Renteria’s passion for working with young players is the same as it would be with veterans. His passion comes from being told he wouldn’t play in the majors. While going through process, he never thought his first-round selection was a mistake. His passion comes from proving everybody wrong. “You can beat me up, but you’re going to know you were in a fight.”

Finally, Renteria believes the team has the arms to get from the six through the ninth innings. And he believes any team that takes the field has a chance to win.

The Cubs name most of their 2014 coaching staff


Pitching coach Chris Bosio will be back for his third season with the club. (Photo by Stephen Green)

With the Rick Renteria era now two weeks old, the Cubs officially named the majority of their major league coaching staff Friday.

Pitching coach Chris Bosio, bullpen coach Lester Strode and staff assistant Franklin Font all return to the organization. Mike Borzello will also be back, but with an expanded role as the club’s catching and strategy coach.

Joining the field staff in 2014 will be Brandon Hyde (bench coach), Gary Jones (third base/infield coach), Bill Mueller (hitting coach), Mike Brumley (assistant hitting coach) and Jose Castro (quality assurance coach). Jaron Madison will replace Hyde as the director of player development.

Bosio, 50, returns to the club for his third season. This is his third stint as a pitching coach (previously with the Devil Rays and Brewers). He spent 11 years playing in the majors, most notably with the Mariners.

Strode, 55, returns for his eighth season as the bullpen coach and his 26th with the organization. Before his current role, he spent 11 seasons as a minor league pitching coordinator.

Font, 36, returns for his third season at the major league level and 20th overall with the organization. Prior to joining the big league staff, Font spent three years as the minor league infield coordinator. He also played within the organization before becoming a staff assistant at Single-A Daytona in 2001.

Borzello, 43, is now in his third season with the Cubs. He was previously with the Dodgers from 2008-11 as a bullpen catcher and also served that role with the Yankees from 1996-2007.

Hyde, 40, enters his third season with the Cubs and will begin his second stint as a major league bench coach, previously working under Jack McKeon with the Marlins for 1.5 years. Hyde joined the Cubs in December 2011 as the minor league field coordinator and was named director of player development in August 2012.

Jones, 53, spent the previous 11 years in the Padres organization, including the last seven as the minor league infield coordinator. He was a first base coach with the Athletics in 1998. Jones managed for 15 seasons in the minors, acquiring four minor league manager of the year awards.

Mueller, 42, has spent the last six seasons as a special assistant in the Dodgers front office. The 2003 AL batting champ also served as an interim hitting coach for the Dodgers in 2007. He spent 11 years in the majors playing with the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers, finishing with a .293 career average.

Brumley, 51, spent the last four seasons as an assistant hitting coach with the Mariners. From 1997-2009, he served as a minor league manager, field coordinator and instructor with Seattle. He spent seven years playing in the majors from 1987-94.

Castro, 55, spent 25 years as a minor league hitting coordinator or hitting coach for the Royals, Mariners, Marlins, Padres and Expos. He was also an interim hitting coach in 2008 for the Mariners.

The Cubs have not announced a first base coach.

Farm Report: How stats can help evaluate minor league players


Cubs Pro Scouting Director Joe Bohringer at the Cubs Convention.

Visit Baseball Reference, Fangraphs or, and you can look up everything from how a player performed in the Dominican Summer League to a breakdown of his left/right splits.

But missing are the stats organizations really care about—the ones for 2013 and beyond.

Predicting what a player will do in the future is a front office’s most important, and toughest, task. A few seasons of data can be telling, but the uncertainty surrounding those numbers increases with each level removed from the majors.

Cubs Pro Scouting Director Joe Bohringer and his staff try to isolate and grade the true talent of thousands of professional players spanning eight different levels. These scouts, who filed many of the team’s 14,000 reports over the last 13 months, aren’t tasked with crunching numbers so much as incorporating them as pieces of the puzzle.

“You’re trying to balance the available information—a player’s track record—with the information you get from your live looks, which is based on the experience and opinions of your scouts,” Bohringer said. “Our job is to try and take all the available information … and then use all that information to make what’s really the best educated guess we can as to what the player may or may not be down the road.”

Popular stats like wins above replacement (WAR) and on-base plus slugging (OPS) aren’t nearly as relevant in the minors. Walk and strikeout rates, ground ball and fly ball rates, speed and power are more fundamental components that help categorize types of players.

“In general, those broad categories won’t change a ton as players move up or down the chain,” Bohringer said. “You will see players who make adjustments to their game as they go. In most cases, they’re really just trying to tighten things up within a specific skill set as opposed to becoming something entirely different.”

The Cubs will look at trends to see if a hitter is making adjustments, reducing his strikeouts or getting into better counts. And they compare players to their league (controlling for age) more than they try to project a major league line.

Minor league numbers also play a role in evaluating how Cubs farmhands are developing. Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde and his crew of coaches and coordinators create “player plans,” a direct implementation of the newly codified Cubs Way. Every farmhand signs off on developmental goals, which list his strengths and weaknesses in the physical, fundamental and mental aspects of the game.

“We break it down into categories, and we have progress reports on goals and things we feel—and the player feels like—they need to do to get better,” Hyde said.

The team collects proprietary information in nightly game reports that include pitch-by-pitch data alongside coaches’ comments. It’s all aggregated and searchable by the front office like any other stats.

It may not replace a crystal ball, but the Cubs hope that good use of the information at hand will allow them to see some bright futures ahead.


Here are some of the Cubs’ 2012 minor league pitching leaders versus their leagues.^ The pitcher’s highest level is listed along with his performance relative to the league average (e.g., Loosen struck out 22 percent more batters faced than the rest of the FSL). The top three starters* are followed by the top three relievers.

Matt Loosen*                        HiA     +22%
Jake Brigham*                       AA      +20%
Kyle Hendricks*                    HiA     +10%

Marcus Hatley                       AAA   +37%
Jeff Lorick                               HiA     +35%
Tony Zych                             AA      +32%

Kyle Hendricks*                    HiA     -66%
Nick Struck*                            AA      -26%
Jose Rosario*                       LoA    -21%

Casey Harman                      AA      -50%
Scott Weismann                   AA      -28%
Joe Zeller                               HiA     -28%


Rob Whitenack*                   HiA     +23%
Dallas Beeler*                       AA      +19%
Dae-Eun Rhee*                    AA      +16%

Frank Batista                          AAA   +34%
A.J. Morris                             HiA     +26%
Felix Peña                              LoA    +11%

^Among players currently with the Cubs who have not made their MLB debut (min. 50 IP).
*Pitcher faced at least 90% of his batters as a starter.

Rizzo leaves for World Baseball Classic Monday


(Illustration by Jerry Neumann)

Patriotism is nothing new for athletes.

Take the pregame ceremonies of the Super Bowl. People were so sure Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was going to shed a tear during the national anthem, Vegas bookmakers threw up prop bets on it (he didn’t).

This month, baseball players from around the globe will demonstrate their national pride when they represent their countries in the third edition of the International Baseball Federation’s World Baseball Classic.

The first WBC in 2006 was a cultural hit, pitting nations against each other in baseball’s version of soccer’s World Cup. Though no member of the Cubs was selected to manager Joe Torre’s U.S. squad for 2013, first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be playing for Italy.

“I’d love to play for [the U.S.]. That was my first choice, but they have all the ‘mon-stars’ on there,” Rizzo said during the Cubs Caravan. “Italy is a great opportunity. I come from a strong Italian background.”

Rizzo was selected because his great-grandfather hails from Sicily. Former Cub Tony Campana also wanted to play for the Italian squad, but was unable to produce a birth certificate from his grandparents.

“I think it’s great that guys want to represent where they’ve come from,” said Brandon Hyde, the Cubs’ director of player development. “They take a  lot of pride in that.”

Former Cubs Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, Henry Blanco and Carlos Zambrano competed in the first Classic, while Kosuke Fukudome, Ted Lilly, Carlos Marmol and Geovany Soto represented their home countries in 2009.

WBC action starts March 2, with the finals taking place March 19 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Team Italy, which is in Pool D, doesn’t get underway until March 7 versus Mexico. Rizzo won’t have to travel far, as Pool D plays in Phoenix, Ariz. Team Italy will play Team USA March 9 at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

Hot Off the Presses: March Vine Line featuring the Shark


The second act is always much harder than the first.

The first time around, you generally have the element of surprise on your side; there are few expectations; and, frankly, anyone can get lucky once (just ask former White Sox “ace” Esteban Loaiza).

Which is why this should be an interesting season for Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija.

It’s not like Samardzija came out of nowhere. If you weren’t familiar with him as an athletically gifted top baseball recruit, you probably knew him as an All-American wideout at Notre Dame. By the time the Cubs signed the big right-hander to a five-year, $10 million contract in 2006, he was practically a household name.

But Samardzija didn’t exactly set the world afire in Chicago. He pitched well enough in the minor leagues to advance, and looked like a world-beater when he first came up in 2008 at just 23 years old. But after he posted  a 2.28 ERA in 26 games out of the bullpen that season, things quickly took a turn for the worse.

In 2009, the Shark threw up a 7.53 ERA in 20 games (two starts). He followed that up with an 8.38 big league ERA in 2010, a season spent mostly in the minors.

If you do a Google search of Samardzija’s name from around 2011, you get headlines like “Are the Cubs Stuck with Samardzija?”,  “As a Pitcher, Samardzija Makes a Great Wide Receiver” and “Is Jeff Samardzija a Bust?”

What a difference a few years make. Samardzija came out of the gates fast in 2011 and never let up, posting an 8-4 record and a 2.97 ERA in 75 relief appearances. But his goal was to be in a big league rotation, so while everyone else had him penciled in as a bullpen fixture—and a possible future closer—Samardzija spent the offseason in Mesa, Ariz., trying to prove he could succeed as a starter.

Flash forward one year, and the headlines look a little different. Now they read, “Why Jeff Samardzija Should be the Cubs’ Opening Day Starter” and “Samardzija Has the Stuff to Be a True No. 1.”

Though Samardzija was shut down after 174.2 innings to preserve his arm and posted only a 9-13 record, he put up a 3.81 ERA in his first year in the rotation (the league average was 3.94). And there were games in which he looked as dominant as anyone in baseball, including his first and last starts of the season. Now people are talking about the Shark as a legitimate ace, and pitching coach Chris Bosio calls him one of the five or six best arms in the game.

“To go from wondering if you’re ever going to put on a Cubs jersey again two years ago to maybe being the Opening Day starter, it means a lot to me,” Samardzija said.

This month, we sat down with the Cubs fireballer to check on his mindset heading into his second year in the rotation. It’s a lot different going into camp knowing you have a job. But I think it’s safe to say: Jeff Samardzija does not get complacent.

We also look down the pipeline at how the Cubs are developing the next wave of Samardzijas. In January, the organization brought 12 of the brightest prospects in the system to Chicago to give them a feel for what life is like in the big leagues. We talked to Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde and several of the Cubs’ top prospects about how the organization preaches the Cubs Way from top to bottom to ensure that players are ready to go once they arrive at Wrigley Field.

Finally, Cactus League games are underway, and that means it’s almost the end of an era in Mesa. After 17 years at HoHoKam Stadium—and 35 years at that same location—the Cubs are saying goodbye to their spring home. We look back at what the old ballpark has meant to the team and look forward to the new park, which will be ready for the first pitch of Spring Training in 2014.

To read these stories and more, pick up the March issue of Vine Line, on sale now at select Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line today. And you can follow us on Twitter at @cubsvineline.