Jim Hickey

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


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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Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs pitching coach

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs pitching coach

The Cubs' coaching staff shakeup continued this offseason with pitching coach Jim Hickey leaving for personal reasons, according to a statement from the Cubs.

Hickey - a Chicago native - spent just the one year as pitching coach of the Cubs after serving in the same capacity with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays for 11 seasons.

“Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons," Theo Epstein said in the team's statement. "We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey's departure from the Cubs has been rumored for weeks before he stepped down of his own accord three days before Thanksgiving.

Still, this is another surprising shakeup on the Cubs coaching staff after Epstein stressed the importance of continuity within the organization following the Cubs' final game.

Since being ousted from the postseason after the National League Wild-Card contest, the Cubs have already replaced their hitting coach - hiring Anthony Iapoce for the departed Chili Davis - watched their assistant hitting coach (Andy Haines) leave for a promotion with division rival Milwaukee and are now in the same boat on the pitching staff, creating a situation where there will be a third different voice coaching pitchers in the span of roughly a calendar year.

In Hickey's one year with the Cubs, the bullpen led baseball in ERA but faded down the stretch due in part to injuries and overuse. The rotation struggled in the first half, ranking 26th in the league in innings pitching as a unit, too often failing to pitch deep into ballgames. But the starting staff stabilized once the Cubs traded for Cole Hamels and was a major strength of the team for the final two months of 2018.

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What's going on with the Cubs coaching staff?

What's going on with the Cubs coaching staff?

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The National League Wild-Card Game was more than a month ago, Hot Stove is in full gear and yet the Cubs still haven't revealed what their coaching staff will look like in 2019.

All that's known for sure is Joe Maddon will be the manager, Chili Davis will not be the hitting coach (Anthony Iapoce will fill that role) and assistant hitting coach Andy Haines has taken a gig as the lead guy with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Beyond that, the Cubs won't comment on the reports that have permeated throughout the offseason that pitching coach Jim Hickey will not be back in the same capacity in 2019. 

Instead, the Cubs front office has offered a steady supply of various forms of "no comment."

"We're working through a lot of stuff," GM Jed Hoyer said Tuesday at MLB's GM Meetings. "I won't comment on anyone in particular, but we have a number of people exploring different things and we're not at a place now where we can announce it."

When pressed again about the matter Wednesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the organization is "not in a position to be able to formally announce the final coaching staff yet."

The timeline for when the Cubs can announce it is unclear, though Epstein promised it would be "relatively soon." 

If Hickey is, indeed, out as pitching coach, that will mean the Cubs will have a new pitching coach for the third straight season, with Chicago native Hickey filling the role in 2018 and Chris Bosio serving as the coach in 2017. 

The Cubs are already guaranteed three different hitting coaches in three years since they won the World Series, with John Mallee filling the role in 2017, Davis in 2018 and now Iapoce — a disciple of Mallee.  Since his firing, the Cubs have lauded Davis' ability as a hitting coach, but acknowledged he simply wasn't a good fit with the current club or roster.

And more shakeup may be coming down the line, as 2019 is the final year Maddon is under contract and the two sides won't be negotiating an extension at all this winter.