Monday, Oct. 11, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
Like everyone else, Larry Rothschild is waiting to see who will be the Cubs manager next season. But that uncertainty didnt stop the pitching coach from exercising the 2011 option on his contract.
Rothschild had until Monday seven days after the end of the regular season to make that decision, though it doesnt necessarily guarantee that he will return for his 10th season as Cubs pitching coach.
It was the logical, expected move for the Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate, who has survived several regime changes since coming back home to Chicago.
Some have been interim replacements and others have been managers of the year. But so far Rothschild has worked alongside Don Baylor, Rene Lachemann, Bruce Kimm, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Alan Trammell and Mike Quade.
Rothschild will have to come to an agreement with the next Cubs manager or else explore his options outside the organization. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is signed through 2012 but the rest of the staff doesnt have that kind of security.
Rothschild appears to be a natural fit with Quade, who is the leading candidate of a group that includes Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin. Quade frequently deflected praise for the teams 24-13 finish toward his pitching coach and bullpen coach Lester Strode.
You guys know how close I am with those two guys and how much respect I have for them, Quade said during the final week of the season. The (players) deserve the credit but those guys spend a lot of hours with them and they do a great job. They miss nothing.
Rothschild also has an ally in Carlos Zambrano, who hes worked with since 2002, when Kerry Wood and Mark Prior combined to make 52 starts. Rothschild could guide the next generation of Cubs pitchers Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Chris Archer and no one is better prepared to try to reach their enigmatic 91.5 million ace.
Hes been outstanding for me, Zambrano said. Hes been my mentor, my teacher, (but) this is a business. And whatever they (want) to do, theres nothing we can do about it.
Any pitching coach will need to maintain a relationship with Zambrano who has a no-trade clause and two guaranteed seasons left on his contract to rediscover the pitcher who went 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts.
That coach will also likely lobby management to add another starter to replace the 47 wins and more than 700 innings Ted Lilly accounted for in three-and-a-half seasons until the Cubs traded the veteran left-hander to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs still led the National League with 96 quality starts. That means their starting pitcher went at least six innings and allowed three runs or less almost 60 percent of the time and yet they still finished 75-87 and never rose above .500 at any point all season.
Overall, the pitching staffs 4.18 ERA ranked 13th in the league. The Cubs had finished top-five in that category in each of the previous three seasons.
Rothschild can also point to the development of Sean Marshall (2.65 ERA in 80 appearances) into one of the best setup men in baseball, and the emergence of Carlos Marmol (38 saves) as a dominant closer.
But Rothschild doesnt market himself as a guru and rarely goes out of his way to speak with reporters on the record and get his name in the newspapers.
He just generally enjoys what he does, Randy Wells said. I dont think he needs to have the press or the fans (give) him the credit that he deserves. (He) just kind of sits back, watches the results and takes pride in his staff (for how) they go about their business.
The Cubs rotation could feature Wells and Tom Gorzelanny as the fourth and fifth starters next season. Each turned 28 over the summer and spent part of the 2009 season on the Triple-A level. They have felt their confidence rise and fall.
In between starts, Rothschild runs the meetings that review the mechanics and psychology of pitching. Within the next two weeks, Rothschild will likely have a similar conversation with the Cubs manager, articulating his philosophy and figuring out what adjustments need to be made.
He understands everybody, Wells said. He gives you that mutual respect. Theres no his-way-or-the-highway-type thing. Its: Lets find out what works and lets exploit it. He watches film and studies scouting reports and comes up with a game plan. Its up to us to execute it.
But when things arent going right hes the first one there to help. (He) never point fingers. Its always: Lets find a solution.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.