The Padres pitching staff, even with all the injuries they’ve suffered, is better than what they’ve shown. On Monday the Friars fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild because, as manager Jayce Tingler says, they need a change.
“A different perspective of, if we’re seeing something maybe mechanically or pitch usage, and like I said, just a different voice right now,” Tingler said.
That voice belongs to Ben Fritz. He’s been the bullpen coach for the past two years and with the organization for six seasons in multiple roles, from rookie league to the Show.
“He knows deliveries, he knows pitching, he knows analytics,” Tingler said. “He’s been a coordinator, he’s been a pitching coach, he’s been a rehab coordinator, and he’s been in the Major Leagues these past two years. I believe he’s done a great job with our bullpen. I think he is one of the reasons our bullpen has performed very well this year.”
The Padres bullpen has a 3.12 earned run average, best in the National League, despite being on a pace to throw the most innings in the history of baseball. Their starting rotation, which is more Rothschild’s domain, has an ERA of 4.34, 10th-best in the league and just percentage points ahead of the Rockies, who play half their games a mile above sea level.
The Fritz was a catcher and pitcher at Fresno State with what many people thought was a big-league future as a player. He was a member of the 2002 Oakland A’s draft class made famous by the book and movie "Moneyball."
He reached the AAA level but his playing career ended, like so many others, after Tommy John surgery. His experience with the medical side of the game has made him instrumental in getting injured players back on the field in San Diego. That’s certainly a point of emphasis for the Padres right now. They have 15 pitchers (nine starters) on the Injured List.
There are just seven weeks left in the regular season, begging the question: Can the changes Fritz makes with the staff take root in time to get this franchise to October?
“I don’t think there are going to be a lot of drastic changes whether it’s mechanically, mentally, physically, all those things,” Tingler said. “I do believe that it’s not too late to play really good baseball and to stay in the fight and [have] an opportunity to get into the playoffs.”
The move is a gamble. But, trailing the Reds by a game for the National League’s final Wild Card spot, the Padres are in a position where they have to gamble.
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