CLEVELAND: Unless you’re a player or a manager, it’s difficult to assess the value of a pitching coach or a hitting coach.
Coaches are the most expendable people in a major-league clubhouse. If a team is doing well, the coaches receive a share of the credit, but they also are the first to lose their jobs when losses become habitual, regardless of whether the fault is theirs.
So far, so good for the Indians’ coaching staff. The team is winning and both the hitters and the pitchers have exceeded expectations.
In respect to the coaches’ responsibility for this success, manager Terry Francona is not surprised. When he came on board last fall, one of his (and General Manager Chris Antonetti’s) tasks was to do a thorough job vetting the coaches.
In the season’s first seven weeks, pitching coach Mickey Callaway has gotten the most attention from the media, probably because the rotation was the team’s biggest question mark.
“The biggest thing I can say about Mickey is that if you told me this was his first year as a major-league pitching coach, it would be hard to believe,” Francona said. “He reminds me of a good veteran major-league pitching coach, because of his presence and the way he interacts with pitchers.”
Francona said the interview process was a rigorous experience for all the candidates.
“We really ran the last two guys [for pitching coach] through the wringer,” he said. “And Mickey has come through with all the things he promised.”
Callaway worked in the Tribe’s farm system before he got the job as pitching coach.
“He was very well thought of in the organization,” Francona said. “And people I know out of the organization gave him high marks.”
Would-be coaches are not necessarily geared to make the best impression in a formal job interview.
“They’re not necessarily comfortable in a sports coat,” Francona said. “[Hitting coach] Ty Van Burkleo finally ripped his off and got into his batting stance. That’s when the interview took off.
“I’m probably not the best interviewer, either. It’s not a comfortable thing for me.”
Although coaches Sandy Alomar, Brad Mills and Mike Sarbaugh underwent interviews, Francona was personally acquainted with all three, especially Mills, whom he knew since college. Kevin Cash was a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays before becoming the Tribe’s bullpen coach.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.