It might be the most important coaching position after manager. The last guy was known for his mustache. The guy before him, for his “towel” drills. But for a second straight year, there’ll be a new guy headed out for that first visit to the mound. When Marmol is shaky, or Dempster has served up back-to-backs, or when Samardzija has thrown 30+ pitches, it’ll be Chris Bosio trotting out to the mound to communicate the message to a struggling Cubs’ hurler.
As A Player
Bosio had an 11-year MLB career stretching from 1986 through 1996. He played seven years with the Brewers, followed by 4 with Seattle. For most of his career he was a starter, amassing a 94-93 record and 3.93 ERA. His best season was 1989, he went 15-10 with a 2.95 ERA while pitching 234.2 innings (he was pretty good in 1991 too!). His career highlight is easy to pick though – on April 22, 1993 Bosio threw a no-hitter for the Mariners against the Boston Red Sox. Trivia: It remains to this day both the last no-hitter pitched by a Seattle pitcher, and the last time the Red Sox were no-hit.
As A Coach
After retiring in 1996, Bosio was quick to get back into coaching. By 1998 he was a special assistant with the Mariners. Since then he’s worked in the Mariners, Reds, and Brewers minor league organizations. At two different stops in the Pacific Coast League, he’s tutored a pitching staff that led the PCL in ERA (pitching well in the PCL is no small feat). He’s been the pitching coach for both the University of Wisconsin Osh-Kosh and Lawrence University. And in 2003, former Cubs manager Lou Piniella had Bosio as the pitching coach of the Tampa Bay
As Dale’s Buddy
Both debuting as major leaguers in 1986 with the Brewers, Bosio has known new Cubs manager Dale Sveum for 25 years now. Bosio was 23 and Dale was 22, both impressed the Brewers enough to be integral to the 1987 Brewers. And while Dale’s career was hindered by an injury he suffered at the end of 1988, Bosio’s was flourishing. By 1991 Dale was a journeyman constantly looking for a team that wanted him; but Bosio was headed to a free agent payday with the Seattle Mariners. He would get $15.25mil from the Mariners over 4 years, and in 1994 he was briefly reunited with his old buddy Dale. Sveum would have only 29 PA’s for that 1994 team, but it was Bosio who was out of the league two years later (Dale scratched and clawed his way through the parts of 5 more seasons).
As Pitching Coach For The Cubs
Ultimately none of that matters now, it’s only about what he can do for the Cubs. Manager/Pitching Coach marriages can be very important – Cox/Mazzone, LaRussa/Duncan, Torre/Stottlemeyer – so the fact that Dale selected a long-time friend could be really good. But more than anything, the Cubs need a pitching coach who knows what to expect out of his pitchers. Riggins, and to a lesser degree Rothschild, seemed far too often to “hope” for the best when things started to go south on the mound. Part of what made some of those tandems above so good is that they had a joint understanding of what their staff could, and more importantly, could not do. This Cubs staff probably won’t be mistaken as historically great, but they don’t have to be historically bad either. And there are some young pieces that have been intriguing in Spring Training so far.
Improvement, to me, would be if Bosio has the good sense to know the difference between when Marmol is about to implode vs. when he’s just making it interesting; knowing when Ryan Dempster is just trying to feel his way through five innings; seeing guys on base and realizing that it’s probably best not to bring in Kerry Wood; or counting to 25 pitches and then removing Samardzija. There are a lot of ways this team can improve without any manifestation of it in the win column, knowing and handling our pitchers is definitely one of them. When the new guy with a mustache goes out to settle down a pitcher, let’s hope he possesses a better understanding of the guy with the ball than his predecessor.