GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Missing from the baseball record book is a list of punk rockers turned pitching coaches, though it’s probably safe to assume that Scott Radinsky is the first to make the transition.
That is not to say he has abandoned his music. He remains the lead singer of the band Pulley, which operates out of Los Angeles and appeared before a crowd of 2,200 fans Oct. 24 at the Marque Theater in Tempe, Ariz.
Radinsky, who turns 44 on March 3, has sung in bands for years, but baseball has always forced performing on stage to be a seasonal thing. So when he was promoted from Indians bullpen coach to pitching coach following last season, nothing changed.
The road to becoming a pitching coach began when Radinsky was a formidable relief pitcher with the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals. The end of the line as a pitcher turned out to be Cleveland, where he blew out his elbow in his first appearance for the Tribe in 2001 and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Old news, of course. Last year, pitching coach Tim Belcher decided he wanted to remain closer to home, and Radinsky took his place after the season.
“Obviously, I have more responsibility now; I’m in charge,” Radinsky said Thursday. “But as far as my relationships with the pitchers, it’s been an easy transition.”
In that respect, Indians manager Manny Acta believes Belcher’s attitude helped.
“Those two guys worked so close together the last couple of years, you couldn’t tell the difference,” Acta said. “Rad had such a great relationship with our bullpen guys and our minor-leaguers, it was an easy transition.
“Belch also deserves a lot of credit, because he allowed Radinsky the freedom to express his opinion and help him. Belcher never felt threatened.”
If nothing else, being the boss feels different to Radinsky.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said, “but now I need to get through the day in a way that these guys are better than they were before. When I got in front of them for their meeting, I started thinking that I’m not giving them a new philosophy just a different style.”
Pitching coaches generally impart similar information to fit similar situations. Like most of his lodge brothers, Radinsky stresses that his charges be aggressive in the strike zone and trust their stuff.
The success of any coach depends mostly on how he delivers the message. But no pitching coach can turn a flawed pitcher into an All-Star without a lot of cooperation.
“He can only help so much,” Acta said. “At the end of the day, they only allow one guy on the mound.”
Radinsky believes that the pitching coach gig has changed since he was a pitcher.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Back then, pitching coaches didn’t have access to so much data, to all that information that you can get now. If I utilize it, I can be better.”
Admitting that a pitcher can be overwhelmed by information overload, Radinsky said: “They give me a ton of information, but I’m still allowed to be the pitching coach. I decide what guys are going to use.”
Radinsky didn’t always feel at ease with reams of statistics. After all, he had a successful pitching career without the use of such esoterica.
“I took it the wrong way,” Radinsky said. “Everybody is just trying to help. They’re helping me.”
From the fans’ standpoint (and maybe the club’s), Radinsky’s No. 1 assignment is to turn Ubaldo Jimenez into a big winner.
After trading their top two pitching prospects to the Colorado Rockies to get him, Jimenez failed to live up to his billing as a dominating starter. Instead of throwing 98 mph fastballs, the Jimenez heater crossed the plate at 93 or 94. His command wasn’t sharp, and he got hit too often, posting a 4-4 record and 5.10 ERA.
One explanation: Two injuries early in the season threw him off course for the duration.
“He’s going to have to maintain consistency with his body,” Radinsky said. “One of the first things he said this year is, ‘I’m healthy.’ That brought a smile to my face. If he says he’s healthy, I’m going with it.
“This guy can really throw. Even just his raw stuff is tough for hitters to deal with.”
Will fans see Jimenez throw in the high 90s repeatedly this year?
“It’s in there,” Radinsky said. “We’ll see it from time to time. But it’s tough to keep that kind of velocity year to year. Even what he showed us last season is makes him one of the top guys [in velocity]. I think we’ll see a different guy than last year.”
Radinsky has his own favorite pitching coach.
“I credit Dave LaRoche with keeping me in the big leagues when I was 21,” he said. “He was the [White Sox] bullpen coach, but I think he had the title of co-pitching coach.”
LaRoche was the Indians’ closer for two seasons in the mid-1970s and his son, Andy, is a nonroster invitee in the Tribe camp.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/tribematters. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.