Cubs

'A better version' of Brandon Kintzler giving Cubs bullpen a boost

kintzler.jpg
USA TODAY

'A better version' of Brandon Kintzler giving Cubs bullpen a boost

The last time Brandon Kintzler gave up a run, it was just a week after Mother's Day.

That May 19 appearance was his third in a row in which he allowed the other team to score, but no one has touched him since, including a scoreless seventh inning in Sunday's win. That lowered his season ERA to 1.91.

He's on fire this season, and Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy credits Kintzler's willingness to embrace some tweaks to his delivery in order to give him better consistency, especially with his release point.

"Release point is the most important thing. We’re trying to simplify everything else so we can get to that more consistently," Hottovy said. "We’re not trying to change who he was, we’re trying to get a better version of himself."

This took some time for Kintzler to embrace, Hottovy said. As a ten year veteran, he was set in his ways to a certain degree. Kintzler was somewhat resistant to making any changes at first, something even he would admit, Hottovy said, and after having some discussions about those changes during the offseason, he came into spring training with still largely the same delivery as he had before. Kintzler began experimenting with what Hottovy was suggesting during spring training, and as he started to see that his velocity and spin rate weren't negatively impacted, he began to buy in. 

"It was really a good job by him to take some of those suggestions that we gave him, but also to buy into them and own it," Hottovy said.

At issue was all that Kintzler was doing with his hands, his leg kick and when he was coming set. In order to get a more consistent release point, Hottovy said that they wanted to clean up his delivery and make it more compact and more athletic. And for this to really set in, Kintzler had to change his approach to his pregame work.

"His routine is diligent, he gets out there every day, does his routine," Hottovy said. "He made that a part of his daily routine, his daily program, and things have just taken off."

The positive impact is undeniable. As a part of keeping runners from scoring, Kintzler's sinker and slider have gotten more consistent drop than in 2018, and both have gone back to being very hard to hit. Last year, batters had little trouble with his sinker, hitting .295 against it, but that's down to .183 this year. And the same has happened with Kintzler's slider. In 2018, it was hit at a .278 clip, and this year, .083. Those are much better numbers than even when he was an All-Star closer with the Twins in 2017. Kintzler is still primarily a sinkerball pitcher, but having a more effective breaking pitch has helped round out his repertoire.

The Cubs signed Craig Kimbrel in early June to cement the back end of the bullpen, but it shouldn't be missed that Kintzler's willingness to adjust that has led to his bounce-back year has also played a key role in getting those much-needed final outs.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

Report: Giants interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for manager opening

The Giants' search for a successor to now-retired manager Bruce Bochy has led them to the North Side.

According to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, the Giants are interested in Cubs first base coach Will Venable for their own managerial opening. San Francisco's interest is intriguing, as Venable went to high school just outside San Francisco in nearby San Rafael. His father — Max Venable — played for the Giants from 1979-83. 

Venable also interviewed for the Cubs' manager job earlier this month, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that his interest is in the "organization in general." He is one of several internal candidates for the Cubs' job, along with bench coach Mark Loretta and front office assistant David Ross.

The Cubs also interviewed Joe Girardi and are set to meet with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

mark_prior.jpg
USA TODAY

Former Cub Mark Prior likely to take over as Dodgers pitching coach in 2020

Mark Prior's big-league playing career unfortunately fizzled out due to recurring injury woes, but he's making a name for himself in the coaching realm.

With Dodgers current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt transitioning into a new role, Prior is expected to takeover the position starting next season.

Cubs fans know the story of Prior's playing career all too well. The Cubs drafted him second overall in the 2001, with Prior making his MLB debut just a season later. He went on to dominate in 2003, posting an 18-6 record, 2.43 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 30 starts, a season in which he made the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

However, Prior's season ended on a sour note, as he was on the mound during the Steve Bartman incident in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. Prior exited the game with a 3-1 lead, but the Cubs surrendered seven more runs that inning, eventually falling to the Marlins 8-3 before losing Game 7 the next day. 

Prior struggled to stay healthy after 2003, eventually retiring in 2013 after multiple comeback attempts. While many blame his injury-riddled career on former Cubs manager Dusty Baker, Prior does not. 

While we can only wonder what could've been with Prior to the pitcher, it's good to see him still making an impact in baseball in some fashion.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.