The Phillies are far from knowing what pitchers they will have next season, but they do know who will coach them. They hired Bryan Price on Thursday to be Joe Girardi’s pitching coach.
Price, 57, was the pitching coach for Seattle, Arizona, and Cincinnati before managing the Reds for five seasons. He replaces Chris Young, who was fired in October after just one ill-fated season in the role. The Phillies need to add at least two starting pitchers this offseason and reshape their bullpen after last season’s unit was plagued by injuries. First, they needed a coach.
Price turned down Arizona’s offer in October to be its pitching coach, perhaps knowing that a chance to work with Girardi would come. The Phillies have 10 coaches in place and still need to hire a hitting coach.
Girardi appointed Price as Team USA’s pitching coach before Girardi left his managerial post with USA Baseball in October to pursue a return to the major leagues. With Team USA, which will play an Olympic qualifying tournament this weekend, Price has worked with Phillies pitching prospects Spencer Howard and Connor Seabold. Both right-handers could reach the majors next season.
Hiring Price begins an offseason that will focus on pitching. The Phillies neglected their starting rotation last offseason and then watched it crumble behind Aaron Nola. Their bullpen, which Girardi referenced numerous times at Monday’s introductory news conference, failed to stay healthy, but several of those key relievers already needed to be replaced for 2020. The Phillies have work to do before arriving in Clearwater, Fla.
In Seattle, Price coached a 2001 staff that had the lowest ERA in the majors. He coached Arizona’s Brandon Webb to the Cy Young Award in 2006, and his 2007 Diamondbacks staff had the fourth-best ERA in the National League. With Cincinnati, Price’s 2013 staff led the majors in WHIP and the National League in strikeouts.
The Phillies fired Rick Kranitz before last season to promote Young, who was the team’s assistant pitching coach in 2018 and an analytics savant. But the Phillies finished with the fifth-worst ERA in the National League and Kranitz landed with the rival Braves, who finished with the NL’s fifth-best ERA.
Price’s style is closer to Kranitz’s than to Young’s. The pitching coach, Girardi implied Monday, needs to be more than just a numbers cruncher.
“Just as important is a real ability to relate to the pitchers, sometimes the struggles they’re going through, and that there’s a deep relationship there,” Girardi said. “The pitching coach has a tough job because there’s so many pitchers that they deal with. But he has to know each one of them really well, and they have to trust him, and that’s really important.”