It was a surprise to learn Friday that longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild has left the Cubs after accepting the same position with the New York Yankees.
Who Jim Hendry and Mike Quade will choose as Rothschild's replacement is anyone's guess, but I'll be curious to learn if Greg Maddux, now a special assistant to Hendry, will be a candidate for the position.
ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine reported Friday that a source told him that the Cubs will stay within their organization for a successor to Rothschild. Levine's list of top candidates includes minor-league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins, Cubs bullpen coach Lester Strode, Triple-A pitching coach Mark Mason and Double-A pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn.
The 56-year-old Rothschild, who signed a three-year contract with the Yankees reportedly worth close to $2 million, will be reunited with New York manager Joe Girardi. In Rothschild's first season as Cubs pitching coach, in 2002, Girardi was a catcher with the team.
Levine reported that Rothschild will make close to $650,000 this coming season in New York, as opposed to the $500,000 he would have made with the Cubs in 2011. The fact that the Yankees hold spring training in Tampa, Fla., where Rothschild now resides, also played a role in his decision.
"My reasons for pursuing and accepting this opportunity are personal and family-based, as the Yankees hold spring training in, and travel several times a year to, my hometown of Tampa," Rothschild said in a news release issued by the Cubs. "The chance to spend increased time with my family was something I wanted to explore and I am grateful for the opportunity to have done so."
On Oct. 11, Rothschild, a 1971 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School, informed the Cubs that he was excercising his option to return to the Cubs for the 2011 season and prior to Friday's announcement, he was not mentioned as a candidate to replace Dave Eiland who was fired by the Yankees after they were defeated by the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series.
Rothschild's tenure, under five different Cubs managers (Don Baylor, Bruce Kimm, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, and Mike Quade) provided the Cubs' coaching staff with a great deal of stability. Before his arrival in 2002, the Cubs employed a revolving door of pitching coaches who included Moe Drabowsky (1994), Fergie Jenkins (1995-96), Phil Regan (1997-98), Marty DeMerritt (1999), and Oscar Acosta (2000-01).
The Cubs pitching staff led the major leagues in strikeouts in each of the first seven seasons during Rothschild's tenure. Sure, the Cubs employed several flame throwers
during that period, but I've wondered whether a philosophical overreliance on strikeouts was a contributing factor to the long string of injuries the pitching staff has endured. Jon Lieber, Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Joe Borowski, and Angel Guzman all experienced arm problems on Rothschild's watch. Matt Clement, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis, and Rich Harden came up lame after leaving the Cubs.