Less than six months after his last at-bat in the big leagues, Eric Hinske is joining the Cubs as their new first-base coach.
The Cubs finalized Rick Renteria’s staff on Tuesday with a surprising hire. Hinske got released by the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer and didn’t last long in retirement.
Whatever Hinske lacks in coaching experience, the Cubs see potential in his personality and playing credentials. He was the American League’s 2002 Rookie of the Year with the Toronto Blue Jays. He won World Series rings with the 2007 Boston Red Sox and 2009 New York Yankees. He also played in the 2008 World Series with the worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays.
Hinske grew up in Wisconsin and the Cubs initially picked him in the 17th round of the 1998 draft out of the University of Arkansas. As a corner infielder/outfielder and designated hitter, he lasted 12 years in the majors, generating 137 homers and 522 RBI in 1,387 games.
Hinske also spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates during their rebuild and saw how a model organization like the Atlanta Braves did things. He played for Terry Francona, Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi and Bobby Cox.
It’s that type of exposure to winning environments that makes Hinske an interesting choice for a franchise that’s banking on young players to develop at the big-league level. He’s only 36 years old and has gigantic, colorful tattoos across his back and arms.
The Cubs need a staff that’s approachable to the prospects expected to be central to this rebuilding process. Renteria is a first-year manager inheriting a team that lost 197 games across the last two seasons and got Dale Sveum fired.
The front office and Renteria had already settled on a mix of new and old coaches: Bill Mueller (hitting); Chris Bosio (pitching); Brandon Hyde (bench); Gary Jones (third base); Lester Strode (bullpen); Mike Borzello (catching/strategy); Mike Brumley (hitting assistant); and Franklin Font (staff assistant).