October 2009

Pole out as pitching coach

We knew something out of the ordinary was coming when reporters were summoned to the Reds clubhouse early, before the usual 3:40 p.m. opening time. Once summoned into the manager’s office, GM Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker let us know that all of the coaches were renewed for 2010, except for pitching coach Dick Pole.

Pole will not be in the dugout for the final three games of this season against the Pirates.

“I think as an organization that Dick has done a good job,” Jocketty said. “At this point going forward, we’re making a change and we’ll leave it at that. There are no specific reasons. We really don’t have a clear candidate [as a replacement]. We’re going to formulate a list and try and find the right guy that can be with this organization a long time. We’ve got some young pitchers coming along. We want to make sure we find the right guy to help develop them.”

Pole, 58, was in his third season as the Reds pitching coach and was brought on by previous manager Jerry Narron. Pole had previously worked with Baker on the Cubs’ staff. It was Baker who informed Pole of the change.

Hitting coach Brook Jacoby, first base coach Billy Hatcher, third base coach Mark Berry, bench coach Chris Speier, bullpen coach Juan Lopez, bullpen coach Juan Lopez and bullpen catcher Mike Stefanski were all informed they would be returning.

In house — I’d have to imagine that Triple-A Louisville pitching coach Ted Power and perhaps organizational instructor Mario Soto would be candidates for the job. And before you even ask, Jeff Brantley has zero chance to get the job.

Outside — Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan immediately comes to mind, despite the pine tar flap from Thursday. He obviously worked for Jocketty in the past and owner Bob Castellini used to have a minority interest with the Cardinals.

The general impression here is that this decision wasn’t Baker’s to make.

“I told Dick when I got here today,” Baker said. “It was pretty difficult for me to tell him because you know how close me and him are. I’d rather be the one to tell him because of my relationship with him and how much he’s done in the game. It’s a tough decision, an organizational decision.”

The details of why Pole was let go were not revealed. There had been times when some pitchers didn’t follow his directions and went their own way. Edinson Volquez defended Pole, however.

“He was a good pitching coach. Somebody had a different opinion than me,” Volquez said. “He was one of the good guys on the team. He taught me a lot for the last two years. I’m going to miss him next year.”

One reason the decision seems odd — Reds pitchers showed improvement this year. The team ERA entering Friday was 4.21 compared to 4.55 in 2008. Opponent’s batting average was .258 compared to .275 last season. Hits are 1399 in ’09 to 1542 in ’08.

Jocketty didn’t want to wait until after the season to make the decision known, so coaches wouldn’t be twisting in the wind.

“It’s tough going to the last day,” Jocketty said. “Those guys were all anxious to understand where they’d be next year. We decided this would be the best way to handle it. there’s never a good way to handle it.”

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Arroyo responds to pine tar talk

It’s been an interesting morning in the clubhouse — far more interesting than it usually is before a day game that came after a night game.

The buzz was about comments Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan made about Bronson Arroyo’s strong 8 1/3 performance after Wednesday’s 6-1 Reds win.

“I’m sure he had pine tar on his cap,” Duncan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He didn’t have any problem getting a grip. Balls like that can generate a lot more movement than a slick ball that hasn’t been rubbed up.” 

Asked if he had seen Arroyo go to his cap, Duncan said, “Just every pitch.”

Duncan was unhappy because Cardinals starter John Smoltz complained all night about not being able to grip the balls because they were slick. Smoltz, who walked five batters and allowed six runs over four innings, repeatedly threw balls out that he didn’t like.

“I’ve been around for 40-plus years now and I’ve never seen a major-league baseball game played with balls like that,” Duncan told the newspaper.

Arroyo was not shy with his retort to the allegations, which he denied.

“The reason he’s saying that is because I’ve been using this hat all season,” Arroyo said. “That’s what happens from playing games in every other park where there is so much mud on the balls. That black stuff comes off on my fingers every day.”

Arroyo showed his cap — the bill was stained black. Before games, clubhouse attendants for the home team have the job of rubbing the balls with mud so pitchers can get better grip. Some parks have muddier balls than others.

“The funny thing is I normally switch out hats. I have two hats,” Arroyo said. “The other one is a lot cleaner. It’s starting to build up a little bit. I didn’t switch hats because it wasn’t hot enough to be really soaked and wet like in the summertime.”

As for going to his cap frequently?

“Yeah, I grabbed my [crotch]. I do this and I have 8,000 twitches,” Arroyo said. “What do you want me to do about it? That’s how I pitch.

“The next time I pitch, I guarantee that I will call over there on the phone say ‘Dave Duncan, this is Bronson. I’m putting on a brand new hat.'”

The Reds, including pitching coach Dick Pole and manager Dusty Baker, were not too amused by the Duncan allegations. Neither were previously aware of the story from last night.

“He shouldn’t make wild accusations like that,” Pole said. “If they suspected that last night, why didn’t they check him? They would find nothing. The balls [Smoltz] were throwing out looked fine to me.”

“if anybody should know, it would be Duncan,” Baker said. “I remember they had Julian Tavarez over there. They threw his hat out, remember that? His hat was all messed up. They also had a left-hander, Steve Kline. It’s not like it’s something new.”

Reds lineup:

Stubbs 8
Sutton 6
Votto 3
Phillips 4
Rolen 5
Bruce 9
Gomes 7
Miller 2
Wells 1

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