Tommy Hottovy Speaks: Working on New Pitches, Who Stays Stretched Out, Hendricks, Fulmer, Thompson, More

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Tommy Hottovy Speaks: Working on New Pitches, Who Stays Stretched Out, Hendricks, Fulmer, Thompson, More

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, entering his fifth season in the role, spoke this week as Spring Training kicks off. You can see his comments here at the Tribune and here at Marquee, as well as listen to his radio hit with Mully & Haugh on The Score here.

Among the things that stood out to me …

  • The Cubs worked with Jameson Taillon remotely to develop a sweeper grip on his slider, so they feel like he’s months ahead on something like that than he would’ve been if they just started when Spring Training began. (I mentioned before when the talk of Taillon developing a sweeper came up, and I’ll say it again: the Yankees were long known for their sweepers, so if the Cubs were able to help Taillon develop a working one where the Yankees couldn’t, boy would that be a feather in the cap.)
  • Among the depth starters, you can expect Adrian Sampson, Hayden Wesneski, Javier Assad, and Caleb Kilian to fully stretch out as starting pitchers this spring. One or more might win a big league rotation job, with the rest heading to Triple-A Iowa to open the season in their rotation.
  • Keegan Thompson and Adbert Alzolay will also be stretched out for a time, but Hottovy’s comments read to me that the Cubs might start getting them work in the bullpen as soon as the rotation picture becomes clear, because they’ve already had so much success in the big league bullpen. So you stretch them out early to make sure they’re in a good place physically (and in case you wind up needing them to start), and then when you’re starting to see the regular season on the horizon and you know what the five-man rotation is likely to be – and you’re sorting out the bullpen picture – that’s when Thompson and Alzolay would likely start relieving.
  • “We took a very proactive approach in the offseason programming, whether it’s the throwing program, the weight room, the conditioning stuff, all of the corrective from the training staff,” Hottovy said. “Camp’s just starting, but I really feel like we’ve been having camp for a month cause it’s just how much information we’ve been able to gather.”
  • “These guys are coming ready to work,” Hottovy said. “They know why we’re here and what we’re trying to accomplish as a team and I don’t think there’s any in between like ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ No, we’re like our expectation as a group is to win. I think you feel that in the group for sure.”
  • Hottovy pointed out that the Michael Fulmer deal isn’t finalized or official yet, but said that adding a guy LIKE him helps solidify the back of the bullpen. The Cubs have quite a few guys who can handle the multi-inning hybrid role, so helping solidify the back is good. Fulmer is a guy who is still coming into his own in a new role, having only recently transition full-time to a single-inning relief role, and he’s hungry to get better.
  • Paraphrasing Hottovy on whether the Cubs will have a set closer or not: I love the idea of somebody jumping out and taking the closer job; most closers earned it at some point; we know we have guys who have gotten saves before, but it’d be nice almost to have a competition and let it work itself out; but it also helps early in the year not to push one guy a ton early in the year.
  • Hottovy said that the Cubs could have a pretty good idea on where guys were before making WBC decisions because they have had so much time this offseason to communicate with guys. You could work on bullpens, get data, get video, etc., all remotely, and then there’s a lot more confidence in where guys are by the time they would have to commit.
  • Hopefully next week Kyle Hendricks could be off the mound, and ramping up in the bullpen is going to be the big test. The Cubs should have a better understanding of where he is in a couple weeks. But the depth helps them feel like they can take it as slowly with Hendricks as they want or need.
  • Hottovy was asked more about Keegan Thompson, specifically, since I think we all know it’s more likely that he could end up making some starts this year than Adbert Alzolay. Hottovy said Thompson is probably going to get some starts this spring, but also some multi-inning relief outings. It sounds like the emphasis is on getting him built up, and able to pitch on shorter rest when necessary (if he’s not starting), since his outings last year were all very spaced out.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.