Monday, Dec. 6, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Mark Riggins traveled all across the country to watch these pitching prospects, leaving his home in Kentucky to spend around 125 nights each year in a hotel.
Riggins would visit Boise, Idaho, Daytona, Fla., Des Moines, Iowa, a week at each minor-league affiliate to see if they lived up to the hype.
Larry Rothschild didnt seek out the attention, but he cut a familiar figure, sitting next to one Cubs manager after another in the dugout, getting tangled up in the cautionary tales of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
Most fans wont recognize the new guy with the moustache. But in a move that reinforces their belief in the systems young arms, the Cubs promoted Riggins from minor-league coordinator to pitching coach on Monday to replace Rothschild.
On Day 1 of the winter meetings inside the Walt Disney World complex, that passed as a major announcement for a team with limited payroll flexibility.
The Cubs arent going to be major players in the free-agent market. They are scheduled to meet with agent Scott Boras soon Carlos Penas name will come up as a first-base option and will continue to look for a starting pitcher and a right-handed reliever.
Whichever way the first move may go, general manager Jim Hendry said, that might effect the way you do business for the other couple pieces.
Until dominos start to fall there were rumors linking the Cubs to Adrian Gonzalez and James Loney in unlikely trade talks they will have to look at solutions from within.
The Cubs have locked in Sean Marshall as their eighth-inning reliever, but internally theyre still debating whether Andrew Cashner should be moved to the rotation. It will depend on the other offseason moves.
Riggins spent the past three years as minor-league pitching coordinator, monitoring the impact players the Cubs are counting on for 2011 and beyond. Before that he lasted 29 seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, serving as their pitching coach under Joe Torre in 1995.
Riggins has followed Cashner since he was selected 19th overall in the 2008 draft and helped him work on a changeup during the Arizona Fall League. Riggins believes Cashner has enough pitches to be a front-end major-league starter.
There will be plenty of other projects, especially if the available money is spent on a first baseman. Riggins will try to get through to Carlos Zambrano and salvage the 10 million investment the Cubs made in Jeff Samardzija.
On some level Riggins will have to be a psychologist.
Thats what the game is calling (for) now. These guys are a little different as far as their makeup, their confidence levels, Riggins said. They need to be patted on the back a little more from when I (first started). You have to treat each guy individually. He might have some problems at home, how he was brought up, his parents, his family.
You have to work a lot on the mental side with the guys to keep them going every day.
Communication skills helped Mike Quade earn his promotion. Though Riggins admitted that he hasnt spent much time with the new Cubs manager, he feels they come from the same place. Both will be 54 next year and spent too many seasons in the minors waiting for an opportunity like this.
Rothschild appeared ready to return for his 10th season as Cubs pitching coach he had already exercised his 2011 contractual option but was lured away by the New York Yankees and the chance to train near his family's home in Tampa, Fla.
Rothschild enjoys a good reputation throughout the industry, and there will be few financial limitations placed upon his new pitching staff. But it seems like the Cubs are not going for names, and instead trusting the people they already have in place.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.