Cubs

Cubs will hire Jim Hickey as next pitching coach to oversee new phase at Wrigley

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USA TODAY

Cubs will hire Jim Hickey as next pitching coach to oversee new phase at Wrigley

The Cubs have a deal with Jim Hickey to make him their new pitching coach, a source familiar with the agreement said Thursday, part of a much broader shakeup to Joe Maddon’s staff and a team that will need to replace 40 percent of the rotation and identify a new closer.

The Cubs essentially limited their search to one candidate after firing Chris Bosio last week, knowing Hickey’s close relationship with Maddon, his reputation for helping the Tampa Bay Rays consistently develop young pitchers like David Price and Chris Archer and his roots on Chicago’s South Side.

Hickey became an in-demand free agent earlier this month when he parted ways with Tampa Bay with a year remaining on his contract. Maddon denied the speculation about a reunion during the National League Championship Series, when he said “of course” he would like his entire coaching staff back in 2018.

Two days later, Bosio got fired during a Wrigley Field exit meeting. Hickey was said to be in the mix for potential jobs with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox.

“The fact that Hickey’s available has nothing to do with it,” Maddon said Thursday on the same conference call where he explained the availability of Chili Davis and Brian Butterfield — with the Red Sox staff in flux — led to the dismissals of hitting coach John Mallee and third base coach Gary Jones.

Bosio — whose six years with the Cubs covered marketing short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija for big trade-deadline deals and overseeing the development of Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks into foundation pieces for a World Series rotation — is said to be close to landing another job as the Detroit Tigers pitching coach.

With Arrieta and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents — and John Lackey expected to disappear into retirement in Texas — the Cubs will have a major overhaul of their pitching staff. Two key pieces to that pitching infrastructure — catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello and run prevention coordinator Tommy Hottovy — will remain in place next season.

Hickey also creates another connection to Alex Cobb, a free agent the Cubs will need intelligence on after he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in the middle of the 2015 season. Cobb went 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in 115 career starts for the Rays, just turned 30 and has only 700 innings of major-league wear and tear on his body.

Major League Baseball is entering a World Series blackout zone where teams are not allowed to make major announcements. But there is no doubt Hickey will be coming home to Chicago, wearing a Cubs uniform next season and standing next to Maddon in the Wrigley Field dugout.

“We just thought it was time for a different voice at this particular moment,” Maddon said. “I don’t want to get too deeply into that, but that’s exactly where we’re coming from. We just decided to make this change. I’m here to tell you, man, Boz is one of the most organized coaches — not just pitching coaches — I’ve ever been around.

“Nobody can care more than he did. But just moving it along — and I hate to say change in direction or whatever, I don’t like to use that phrase — we just thought a different voice was important right now. And that’s it. But it had nothing to do with Hickey.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: David Bote’s wild ride and a huge test for Cubs pitchers

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: David Bote’s wild ride and a huge test for Cubs pitchers

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ series win over the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, which capped off with yet another David Bote walk-off and a surprising performance from Tyler Chatwood. They also break down where this Cubs team is at as they get set to welcome the high-powered Dodgers offense into Chicago later in the week.

:30 – The Kelly Effect

1:00 – David Bote’s wild ride

2:00 – El Mago’s magic pays off for Cubs yet again

3:30 – Bote’s adjustments

6:40 – Chatwood’s big day

8:50 – What’s next for Chatwood?

10:10 – Lester’s return is right around the corner

11:30 – Cubs pitching firing on all cylinders

12:00 – Did Kap jinx Strop?

13:30 – Dodgers pose a big challenge for Cubs pitching staff

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Add another chapter to David Bote's incredible story

Add another chapter to David Bote's incredible story

David Bote had to be feeling like the luckiest guy on Earth.

The Cubs were humming along in their quickest game of the season and two outs away from a 1-0 victory on a picture-perfect Easter Sunday at Wrigley Field. That was good news for him, because he had a flight to catch — doctors were inducing his wife, Rachel, and she was going to be giving birth to their third child that night.

Then Bote watched as Arizona's light-hitting outfielder Jarrod Dyson — he of 16 homers in 744 career games coming into the afternoon — sent a Pedro Strop pitch into the right-field bleachers in the top of the ninth inning to extend the game.

So Bote took things into his own hands.

Javy Baez led off the Cubs' half of the ninth with a double down the right field line, advanced to third on an error and then Willson Contreras was plunked by Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley.

Up stepped Bote, who watched a curve for Ball 1 and then narrowly got out of the way of a 95 mph fastball ticketed for his left temple. Bradley came back with a curve for a strike and Bote knew what to look for, waiting on another curveball and hammering it through the drawn-in infield for the Cubs' 10th win of the season. 

Minutes later, Bote had bolted out of Wrigley Field, heading back home to Colorado for the birth of Baby No. 3.

Speaking of which, Bote's walk-off hit Sunday came exactly 36 weeks (a little over eight months) after his ultimate grand slam to beat the Washington Nationals...

"It's a grand slam baby and now it's another walk-off for him," teammate Anthony Rizzo joked.

This is just the latest chapter in the incredible story of Bote, an 18th-round draft pick who endured seven seasons in the minor leagues before being called up to the majors. He doesn't even have a full year of service time in "The Show" yet, but he's already proven he belongs and carved out a permanent spot on the roster before signing a 5-year, $15 million extension earlier this month.

"From the homer last year, there was a lot of pressure and he slowed everything down," Baez said. "He just keeps getting better and he knows he's got talent and he can do it. He's got a lot of confidence coming off the bench and he's been huge for this team."

This was Bote's 42nd career RBI and it was already his 4th walk-off RBI. That means nearly 10 percent of his career RBI have come via walk-off situation.

"It's nice. He's had experience early [in those situations]," Rizzo said. "You can't teach that. He's had a lot of situations like that and he's come through. It's fun to watch."

This was only the 10th start of the season for Bote in the Cubs' 20th game, but he's found a way to stay sharp. 

After his 2-hit game Sunday, he's now slashing .295/.380/.455 on the season and showing off the adjustments he's made after hitting just .176 with a .559 OPS after that ultimate grand slam last year.

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