Former Dodgers great will replace Greg Maddux, mentor young arms
By Ken Gurnick
PHOENIX -- Greg Maddux gave up his spring role as a pitching instructor, but the Dodgers have brought in Orel Hershiser to take his place.
Maddux was hired a year ago as a special assistant, primarily for Spring Training, but last summer he became a volunteer pitching coach at UNLV, where his son, Chase, is a sophomore pitcher. Hershiser, already part of the Dodgers' broadcast team, will add spring pitching instructor to his duties, taking on the unofficial Maddux role of retired superstar pitcher in residence.
"My mentality is to get guys better," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, never territorial over his domain, whether guest instructors are Hall of Famers like Maddux and Sandy Koufax, or a Cy Young Award winner and World Series hero like Hershiser.
"Nobody knows everything. Different guys try different things, maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. But Clayton [Kershaw] helped [Hyun-Jin] Ryu with his slider. [Rich] Hill has helped [Ross] Stripling improve and helped [Julio] Urias with his grip. As long as they don't get crazy and take away what made them successful. A lot of it is flat-ground work. We'd play catch and work on things. Maybe you'll see Orel playing catch with them."
The 58-year-old Hershiser, who was the Texas Rangers pitching coach for four seasons, stressed that broadcasting remains his job and focus. This is his fourth season as a Dodgers broadcaster.
"I still have my schedule doing the games and shows with Spectrum," Hershiser said. "But they asked me to be in uniform, and it will be a lot of fun. I'm just there to help. Rick and I are good friends, we were catch buddies when we played, and we're on the same page. We learned our pitching philosophy from Sandy and Dave Wallace."
Honeycutt envisions Hershiser working particularly with young pitchers such as Brock Stewart and Trevor Oaks.
"A lot of our young guys, to get to the next level, it will be with their breaking ball," Honeycutt said. "Even [Alex] Wood, who has a really good one, can better understand how to create depth. [Grant] Dayton too. [Pedro] Baez. They need to improve their spin, and Orel had one of the best. He'll be another expert who's been there and had great success. He's a great fit. He really understands the mechanics we like."
Well, of course he does. He was a teammate of Honeycutt's on the Dodgers teams of the 1980s.
"I was thinking the other day what an amazing life it's been," said Hershiser. "I was a Minor Leaguer seeing Don [Drysdale] and Sandy, Campy [Roy Campanella] and Tommy [Lasorda] in Vero Beach. All the guys walking around camp. I remember being like, 'Wow, that's a lot of knowledge and history here.' It made you proud to put the uniform on and go to work. I'm glad the organization is continuing it and letting me be part of it."
Hershiser said he will try to raise awareness in pitchers about the work and commitment that's necessary to succeed.
"The most important moment is when you reach into that ball bag and pull out the ball for the first time," he said. "Make every throw count."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.