Anthony Iapoce

Report: Theo Epstein faced pressure from Bryzzo to fire Chili Davis

Report: Theo Epstein faced pressure from Bryzzo to fire Chili Davis

It's been 99 days since the Cubs fired Chili Davis, but we're still hearing new reports on the reasoning behind the decision. 

The latest comes from SNY's John Harper, who explained why the New York Mets were so quick to hire Davis after he was fired from the Red Sox and Cubs in successive winters. 

The reasoning? According to Harper, Cubs president Theo Epstein was pressured to fire Davis by two of the team's most notable hitters — Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant:

Secondly, Cubs president Theo Epstein didn't really want to fire Davis, according to multiple sources, yet felt he had no choice but to give in to the wishes of at least a few of his star hitters, most notably Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

"He caved," was the way one person close to the situation put it. "He's not happy about it. He thinks it's BS that the players complained about Chili, but he wasn't going to stick with his hitting coach just to make a point."

That is one strong quote on the matter by the "person close to the situation." 

While Davis himself admitted he didn't connect with a lot of the "millennial" players, it's tough to blame his departure solely on that drama.

The simple fact of the matter is Davis was brought in to limit the roller coaster nature of the Cubs lineup (by improving situational hitting, using the whole field, cutting down on strikeouts, etc.) yet the team still wound up leading baseball with 40 games of scoring 1 or fewer runs. It was the quiet offense that led to the Cubs' demise down the stretch in 2018 more than anything else.

Davis deserves credit for helping Javy Baez realize his potential and become an MVP candidate and the hitting coach also helped unlock a bit more offense out of Jason Heyward while overseeing a strong bounceback season from Ben Zobrist.

Rizzo got off to a very slow start to 2018, but he rebounded from May on and wound up having a season that looks very similar to the rest of his career. At this point, Rizzo is his own hitting coach in a lot of ways and he continues to fine-tune his approach at the plate regardless of who is in the position on the Cubs staff.

The Bryant inclusion here is interesting in that the main reason the former MVP had a down season was the shoulder injury that limited him to only 102 games and diminished his power. However, Bryant has always had a "launch angle" type approach instilled in him at a young age from his dad, and Davis wasn't exactly "anti-launch angle," but he prioritized contact over power at times.

In Davis' stead, the Cubs opted for Anthony Iapoce as the new hitting coach. He has a rapport with guys like Bryant, Baez and Willson Contreras dating back years to their time in the minor leagues, so it's a familiar face who already knows how to communicate effectively with the current roster.

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Cubs name Tommy Hottovy pitching coach, announce other coaching staff additions

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AP

Cubs name Tommy Hottovy pitching coach, announce other coaching staff additions

The Cubs' 2019 coaching staff is rounding into form as we enter the Hot Stove season.

Thursday, the Cubs named Tommy Hottovy as their next pitching coach, replacing the departed Jim Hickey. In addition to Hottovy, the team named ex-Cub Chris Denorfia as quality assurance coach and Terrmel Sledge as assistant hitting coach. The team also added "assistant pitching coach" to catching coach Mike Borzello's title. 

The Cubs also announced that Brandon Hyde will return as bench coach in 2019. However, a report recently surfaced that said Hyde will interview for the Orioles' managerial vacancy, so his status is pending.

Hottovy, 37, is a former big-leaguer who pitched in parts of two MLB seasons with the Red Sox and Royals. In a combined 17 appearances from 2011-12, he posted a 4.05 ERA (6.75 ERA in eight games in 2011, 2.89 ERA in 2012). He also pitched with the Cubs in Spring Training 2014, though the team released him that April.

Hottovy has been a big part of the Cubs' pitching infrastructure the last few seasons, working closely with catching coordinator Mike Borzello and bullpen coach Lester Strode.

Theo Epstein confirmed other MLB teams inquired about Hottovy for vacant pitching coach roles and the Cubs also interviewed other potential candidates before landing on their in-house option.

"We talked to a number of other people," Epstein said. "We just felt like there was great risk going outside and also losing some of what we had initially. The more we looked at it, the more we kept coming back to trying to empower Tommy, trying to empower Borzy, trying to empower Lester and it became clear the right answer was to go all in with those guys."

Hickey stepping down as Cubs pitching coach meant that the Cubs would have both a new hitting and pitching coach for the second-straight season. Unlike 2018, though, the two new coaches are not new to the Cubs organization, which is also true for Denorfia and Sledge.

Hottovy became the Cubs' run-prevention coordinator in 2015, while new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce spent 2013-15 as a Cubs special assistant to the General Manager.

Denorfia is a former outfielder who played 10 MLB seasons, one with the Cubs. He hit .272 in his career and .269 with the Cubs in 2015; his walk-off home run in Sept. 2015 against the Royals was one of many for the Cubs that season. 

Sledge is also a former outfielder that played in parts of four MLB seasons from 2004-07. He hit .247 in 291 career games with the Expos/Nationals and Padres; he did not play for the Cubs, but he spent 2015 as hitting coach for Single-A Eugene before becoming the Dodgers' Double-A hitting coach, a position that he held from 2016-18. 

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It looks like the Cubs have a new assistant hitting coach

It looks like the Cubs have a new assistant hitting coach

The Cubs still haven't fully rounded out their 2019 coaching staff, but they drew a step closer Thursday.

Terrmel Sledge is the reported choice for assistant hitting coach and once the deal is official, will work under new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce:

The Cubs fired Chili Davis after just one year as hitting coach and saw assistant Andy Haines leave for the head gig with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sledge, 41, played in the majors from 2004-07, finishing 6th in the National League Rookie of the Year voting with the Montreal Expos in '04 while hitting 15 homers and posting a .799 OPS in 446 plate appearances. He played 100 games with the Padres in 2007, posting a .210/.310/.360 slash line.

Sledge served as the assistant hitting coach in the Cubs farm system in 2015 with short-season Class-A Eugene where he worked with Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez.

More recently, Sledge has served as the lead hitting coach with Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers system, helping guys like Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun take the next step in 2016. Sledge also worked with Tyler Colvin in 2018 when the former Cub played 15 games and took 47 plate appearances with Tulsa.

The Cubs still have one open spot on Joe Maddon's staff as they need to replace pitching coach Jim Hickey, who officially stepped down last week.

Sledge will be one of three new coaches trying to help navigate the roster to another championship and Maddon under contract for only one more season.