You have already talked about teaching the pitchers to throw inside. What other key things are you looking to work on with the staff before the start of the 2009 season?
I think the value of first pitch strikes will be something we want to make a priority all Spring Training long. There are great advantages to be had when a pitcher goes 0-1 versus 1-0 against a hitter, and this will be one of the priorities that we will really stress.
What experiences and lessons-learned in your previous coaching jobs do you think will help you excel as the pitching coach for the Pirates?
It is not as easy as it once was to pitch in the Major Leagues. It is one of the toughest jobs in all of sports today. You have a lot of elements going against the pitchers nowadays: smaller ballparks, the hard baseballs, the harder bats and the mostly smaller strike zones. Basically, it is a lot harder to be a pitcher in today's game that it was 20, or even 10, years ago and I don't think you can ever forget that as a teacher. You have to have a lot of patience in that regard.
You have worked with many championship-caliber pitchers during your career. Are there similar attributes that they all have in common?
Yes, I would say preparation. Most of the great pitchers that I've been around, if not by accident, became great through their practice regimes, their training and the way they study the game. They are like their own quarterback, if you will, with the way they manage their game on the mound.
Do you believe your experience as a Major League pitcher has helped you in your career as a pitching coach? Why or why not?
No question about it. I wasn't a very good pitcher so I know what it's like to fail and I know what it's like to get the heck beat out of you. Because of that, I have an understanding of that perspective.
In the short time you have been on board, have you had the chance to evaluate what kind of potential the young pitching staff is capable of?
I spent a week in Pittsburgh in November watching video and I was surprised at one thing, and that is the soundness in the fundamentals of our deliveries. Our deliveries are very good, especially with our starters. I usually expect to go in and say, "There are a couple of guys we need to make a major overhaul with." But there isn't anybody who we have to do that with - someone who would be considered a 'project'. There are a few things that I will be able to help guys out with, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised at how good the deliveries and mechanics were.
What is your best memory in your baseball career- either as a player or as a coach?
Oh wow, that is a good question. There are a lot of great memories, but it would have to be the day that I got promoted to the Major Leagues as a player. You just never forget that. You never forget where you were or how it happened, and you never forget your first day in the big leagues - even the plane ride. That's a culmination of a dream come true.