Honeycutt back for another season in Dodger Blue
L.A.'s longest-tenured coach begins his ninth season in charge of club's pitching staff
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers not only report to Spring Training with a two-time Cy Young winner, they have the pitching coach of a two-time Cy Young winner.
Rick Honeycutt is back for his ninth season as the Dodgers' pitching coach, making him the longest-tenured coach currently on the Dodgers' staff. He's also second on the tenure list of Major League pitching coaches with the same club, behind San Francisco's Dave Righetti, whose resume also includes two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.
Honeycutt also is the senior member of another remarkable group of pitching coaches -- those that have been influenced by pitching guru Dave Duncan, who spent nearly four decades coaching with St. Louis, Oakland, the White Sox, Seattle and Cleveland.
Duncan now is a consultant with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Twelve of the current 30 big-league pitching coaches either pitched for Duncan or were in the same organization with Duncan as a player or coach. Honeycutt pitched for Duncan in Oakland and St. Louis.
Now 59, Honeycutt is on the mend, having just undergone surgery on his right shoulder. But that hasn't dulled his enthusiasm for the new season, which kicks off Saturday when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.
"I feel great about the pitching staff," Honeycutt said. "We have Clayton [Kershaw], Zack [Greinke], Hyun-Jin [Ryu] and [Dan] Haren at the top. And right now, we feel good about [Josh] Beckett so far [after thoracic outlet surgery]. Chad [Billingsley] is right on schedule [after Tommy John surgery]. And behind them, we have [Stephen] Fife, [Matt] Magill, [Zach] Lee and [Ross] Stripling. Our starting depth is good. You never can anticipate what can happen, but if the season started today I feel good about it.
"And Ned [Colletti, general manager] and his staff have improved the durability of the bullpen by adding [Chris] Perez and [Jamey] Wright and keeping [J.P.] Howell. On paper, with Kenley [Jansen] and [Brian] Wilson at the back end, and the other guys we've got to get to them, it looks pretty dominating right now. It's by far the most depth we've had since I've been here."
Since Honeycutt became pitching coach, the Dodgers have led the Major Leagues with a 3.71 ERA, a .248 opponents' batting average and 9,836 strikeouts. The Dodgers were second in the Major Leagues last year with a 3.25 ERA, led by Kershaw, who won his third consecutive ERA title at 1.83.
Honeycutt said this year presents a unique challenge, as the Dodgers' 2013 season extended well into October and 2014 starts early in Australia. Spring Training will be compressed because of the extensive travel, and the season will be disjointed as the two season-opening games will be followed by a trans-Pacific flight and three exhibition games against the Angels before real games resume in San Diego.
Honeycutt said as soon as he saw the schedule, he called former teammate and current Oakland pitching coach Curt Young to pick his brain. The A's opened the 2008 and 2012 regular seasons with games in Japan, facing similar travel and scheduling challenges.
"We just have to make sure that everybody stays on their throwing programs," said Honeycutt. "We won't need a fifth starter until the middle of April, which can be good and bad. There will be a lot of downtime without games. And you have no idea how the body will respond from that trip. But other teams have done it."
Honeycutt said one or more starting pitchers could be left behind when the team goes to Australia for their season-opening games March 22-23 against the D-backs.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.