As the off-season gets underway, the Dodgers look primed to do a whole lot of nothing. They’ll likely do work around the fringes of the roster and in the bullpen, but for the most part they did their heavy lifting in the last off-season (and will do more next off-season).
One key free agent, however, is pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, whose contract expired with the end of the 2017 season. Honeycutt has been the one constant since 2006, and he’s always seemed to have a positive rapport and effect on a pitching staff that is consistently among the best in baseball.
It would seem like a no-brainer to bring him back, but there were rumblings that he might retire or move to a different role. Thankfully then, at a press conference held yesterday, Andrew Friedman said that Honeycutt is set to remain on the coaching staff in 2018.
“He was really energized going through the year. Talking to him during the World Series, from all of our standpoints we all have some unfinished business,” Friedman said. “Honey’s obviously been a part of our past success, and we look forward to him being a part of our success in 2018.”
As fans without access, it’s impossible to truly know how effective a manager or coach is at their job, but if you listen to others talk about him, it seems like this is one of the most important things the Dodgers do this winter.
“If you look at Dodgers teams over the past 10 years and how well they have performed on the run prevention side – being around Honey the last two years, it’s not a mystery as to why,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who made Honeycutt the only holdover from last year’s coaching staff when Dave Roberts replaced Don Mattingly as manager.
“He’s the best pitching coach in baseball,” said the man considered by most to be the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. “He’s very prepared. He works harder than anybody, watches more video than anybody,” Kershaw said. “He’s just very good at what he does. Talking to people who have left after they had him, you take for granted what he brings when you don’t know any different. I’m sure I do that, too.”
“I wouldn’t want to put any other coach down, per se. But compared to other pitching coaches I think Honey puts in probably the most work of any pitching coach I ever had,” Haren said. “He’s constantly doing scouting and watching video specific to every pitcher.” Honeycutt’s greatest asset, Haren said, is his ability to blend the two aspects of the job – being both a fixer (of pitching mechanics) and a planner (of pitching attacks).” “I think a lot of pitching coaches can do either one or the other,” Haren said. “They’re either good at helping you try to get guys out or the majority of the old-school pitching coaches – which I would kind of consider Rick to be – old-school pitching coaches are a lot more mechanical. They want to talk to you in the bullpen. They want to talk to you about your last start – what went right? What went wrong? Were your mechanics out of whack?” “He blended a lot of that with a lot of the game-plan stuff. I think the newer school type of pitching, he’s kind of adapted to that.”
“For one, his ability to scout and stuff is really incredible,” Stripling said. “He works really hard and watches more video than anyone in this locker room. If you go to him and ask him about anyone, he’s ready to tell you how to attack him. That goes for me, Julio (Urias) – from the right or left side, he’s on the ball about knowing what to do. That’s always been baffling to me. Once I pitch to them, I move on and forget about it. He seems to be able to retain it.” “There’s been a bunch of things this year that he’s really helped me with. Obviously, I wouldn’t be where I am without his help. I assume that goes for me, Julio, Jose (De Leon), Kenta (Maeda).”
“He was a huge part of my development this year and our relationship has become a lot closer,” Roberts said. “Just his openness and willingness to help me along the way – it’s hard to really put into words what he’s meant to me.” “As a person who’s been around for so long, he’s got so much knowledge and information. To empower me as the manager to make certain decisions but also to help me along the way, infuse his input – he just really gets the balance between that. With him, there’s no ego. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
So while not a ton figures to shift when it comes to the roster, the Dodgers’ winter is already off on the right foot thanks to the return of one Rick Honeycutt to the coaching staff.