Will Venable

Will Venable is 100 percent committed to Cubs — for now

Will Venable is 100 percent committed to Cubs — for now

Cubs third base coach Will Venable found himself in an interesting spot Saturday morning at Cubs Convention.

During a coaching staff panel, a young fan asked Venable, who interviewed for the Astros managerial opening on Friday, if he’s leaving the Cubs.

Venable’s answer?

“No, I’m not,” he said, drawing a chorus of cheers from the room packed full of Cubs fans.

That is, for now. In a media session following the panel, Venable clarified he’s 100 percent committed to his job with the Cubs, but he’s also taking any potential promotions seriously.

“Obviously you have to take opportunities seriously, you have to think about those things,” Venable said. “I’m a Chicago Cub right now. Until that changes, I’m super excited to be here, committed to this team. Until someone gives me an opportunity to have a different job, this is where I’m at and I plan on being here.”

Friday’s interview marks Venable’s third for a manager job this winter (Cubs, Giants). He declined to talk specifics on his meeting with the Astros, but said he was honored they asked to meet with him. He also called Houston’s recent cheating scandal “pretty significant.”

Despite not securing a managerial gig this winter, Venable realizes he’s gained invaluable experience going through the interview process. He believes he’s a better big-league coach for it.

“Yeah, it’s great. All these opportunities for me, it’s preliminary, I understand that,” he said. “I also understand that it’s a really good opportunity for me to go and talk about baseball, share my ideas and my beliefs and the process to prepare, where I have to define my beliefs and my principles.

“It’s helping me grow as a coach and [it’s] gonna help me be a better coach for the Chicago Cubs. The process has been great and I’m looking forward to using my experience and talking to different baseball people and hearing their ideas and their perspective and applying it to what I do with the Cubs.

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Cubs aiming to finalize coaching staff this week

Cubs aiming to finalize coaching staff this week

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If fans are feeling impatient waiting for the Cubs coaching staff to be finalized, the front office feels their anxiety.

Jed Hoyer said Tuesday afternoon at the MLB GM Meetings the Cubs hope to settle their coaching staff before the week is up, putting an end to what he joked has been a six-week human resources process.

Theo Epstein confirmed Monday Will Venable will be back as a base coach for the Cubs in 2020, though which base is not yet certain. Venable, who interviewed for the managerial vacancy this fall, spent 2019 as the first-base coach for the Cubs, but also filled in at third base early in the season when incumbent Brian Butterfield dealt with vertigo. 

In addition to Joe Maddon, Mark Loretta (bench coach), Butterfield (third-base coach), Lester Strode (bullpen coach) and Chris Denorfia (quality assurance coach) are also out.

That leaves the coaching staff as follows:

Manager — David Ross
Bench coach — Andy Green
Pitching coach — Tommy Hottovy
Associate pitching coach, catching and strategy coach — Mike Borzello
Hitting coach — Anthony Iapoce
Assistant hitting coach — Terrmel Sledge
Bullpen coach — Chris Young
Base coach — Will Venable
Base coach — open
Quality assurance coach — open

It's actually been longer than six weeks since the Cubs informed Maddon they intended to move on from the World Series-winning manager, but it hasn't even been three weeks since the Cubs officially hired David Ross as the replacement. 

But the offseason is fully in gear now and the Cubs would like to turn their full attention to the roster.

"We'd love to get [the coaching staff] done by the end of the week," Hoyer said. "I don't know if that's realistic or not, but that'd be a great goal. We're starting to put together some meetings and stuff with those guys coming to Chicago, so it's not like we're not moving forward with stuff. But I do feel like it's time to have that locked down."

Ross has obviously had a say in the new additions to the staff, going through what Hoyer called a "crash course" in interviewing and hiring coaches. Ross doesn't have much experience working with Green — the most important of the new hires — but he has worked closely with Hottovy and Borzello in the past from his days as a player. He's also been around those guys and the other holdovers on the coaching staff while serving as a special assistant in the front office the last three seasons.

Still, Hoyer said the Cubs are cognizant of Ross' need to have somebody on the coaching staff he trusts. 

"You want guys to fill certain roles on your staff — coaching, strategy, etc." Hoyer said. "But there's also a camaraderie you want to create. There's a relationship with the manager that you want to give that manager. It's a really hard and lonely job at times. 

"Having someone on that staff that you trust that you've known from the past that you can vent to or grab a beer with or grab breakfast with and talk about it, I think that's really important."

Once the final two spots on the coaching staff are finalized, Ross can also turn his attention to pressing matters like immersing himself in the Cubs' behind-the-scenes processes with the research and development staff and the rest of the front office.

Ross has some knowledge of that from his front office work over the last three years, but he also was enjoying time in retirement with his family in addition to his duties as an MLB analyst/broadcaster for ESPN.

"The best way he can hit the ground running is just become really familiar with all of the stuff that we do in the office even beyond what he's already done," Hoyer said. "Using it as a great learning winter for spring training, it's really important from an organization standpoint and a message standpoint. I know he wants to hit the ground running and the best way to do that is to be in the office as much as possible to be able to map out spring training."

Now that David Ross is in the manager's chair, Cubs turn their attention to coaching staff

Now that David Ross is in the manager's chair, Cubs turn their attention to coaching staff

David Ross' boxes are all (presumably) moved into the manager's office at Wrigley Field and the introductory press conference is in the rearview mirror.

Now the Cubs turn their attention to the rest of the coaching staff.

With the search for Joe Maddon's replacement dominating the focus for Theo Epstein's front office this month, the rest of the coaching staff has been waiting. 

The Cubs have not publicly stated their intentions with the remaining coaches, but there will be some changes coming to the staff. Ross has been around the team as a front office executive for the last three years, so he already has familiarity with a lot of the Cubs coaches, plus he worked closely with catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy (who was then the run prevention coordinator) back when he was playing. 

Ross said Monday he had not yet reached out to the coaches, but was planning to do so very soon. Even though he already has a rapport with the current staff, changes will still be coming. 

"Ultimately, it's his decision and that's the way it was for Joe, too, and everybody before him — the manager's gotta have his coaches," Epstein said. "Rossy knows a lot of these guys having been around and I know he plans on keeping a number of coaches. But there are also some guys outside the organization that he feels will make him better and make us better, so it will be a combination."

The World Series will end Tuesday or Wednesday and then Major League Baseball's offseason will ramp up. Four organizations still have to hire managers and those that have found their new skipper have to finalize their coaching staffs.

The clock is ticking for the Cubs if they're going to make any outside hires — and to let the current coaches know where they stand.

"We need to get on that immediately," Epstein admitted. "There's gonna be a lot of competition for coaches out there, so it's important to strike quickly. We've had a lot of conversations even during the interview process getting a feel for [Ross] on what types of coaches he was looking for and then specific names — guys he thought would make us better."

The big key will be the bench coach, as that could be someone who helps make up for Ross' inexperience as a manager. Mark Loretta served in that capacity for Maddon in 2019, but it was Loretta's first year as a coach of any kind and he interviewed for the Cubs' managerial job as well as the Padres opening.

Ross feels confident about how he will handle the communication aspect of the job, but admitted he will likely experience a learning curve with the in-game situations and decision-making. 

"It's going to be important that my bench coach is one step ahead of me until I get that feel back," Ross said. "I've sat in the dugout, I've managed from the seat as a player, but doing it and calling shots and being a step ahead, being aware of the bullpen, how guys are used — all those things are going to be a learned task. I've done it in my mind, now I've got to put it into practice."

Epstein confirmed the Cubs would ideally like a bench coach with a lot of experience — either as a manager or as the right-hand man. 

Beyond that, it's hard to see Ross or the team getting rid of Borzello given his invaluable contributions behind the scenes and Hottovy is a young pitching coach that showed a lot of promise and did a lot well in his first year on the job. Bullpen coach Lester Strode has been with the Cubs for three decades and has served in his current role since 2007. 

The Cubs have been changing out hitting coaches almost as often as leadoff hitters, so it would make sense to see them stick with Anthony Iapoce in that capacity for 2020, especially since he is well-liked by the position players. 

Brian Butterfield is affable and popular, but he dealt with health issues in 2019 and his two main areas of focus (baserunning and infield defense) were major issues for the Cubs last season. Like Loretta, first-base coach Will Venable also interviewed for the Cubs managerial opening before Ross got the job.