Matt Blake officially was named the Yankees’ new pitching coach on Thursday, but he said he already has begun the process of reaching out to and getting to know the staff.
That might seem like an obvious step, but listening to Blake on a conference call with reporters, it was evident that it is a higher priority than ever given the modern approach to the job that the 34-year-old is expected to bring.
“There is a growing field of tech that’s coming into the game,” he said, “and I think it’s trying to make sense of it for the players and basically be an aggregator of resources, if you will, to bring bite-sized nuggets to them.”
Blake is a clear contrast to his predecessor, Larry Rothschild, 65, an old-school sort who already has landed with the Padres.
Four years ago, he was coaching high school players. The Indians hired him in 2016 for a low-level position, and recently they made him director of pitching development. He had been assistant director of player development.
He earlier spent seven years as pitching coordinator for Cressey Sports Performance in Florida, which he believed was part of his appeal to the Yankees, given his broad knowledge of treating players’ bodies properly.
The trick, he said, is “having a big picture in mind. It’s not just what are they doing on the mound or what are they doing in the throwing program. It’s the whole spectrum of activities to prepare their body.”
Indians general manager Mike Chernoff believes that despite Blake’s young age and lack of personal major league pitching experience, he will be able to connect with players.
“When he came to us he already had a tremendous knowledge and understanding of how the body works in pitching,” Chernoff said. “What we saw in his growth and development was really on his leadership skills and his ability to translate that knowledge into actionable plans for players.
“It’s a huge jump to now go into a major-league coaching role and he obviously hasn’t coached before, but this is a guy who has tremendous knowledge of pitching and has already taken on different leadership experiences to be able to connect with coaches and players, so I think he has a shot of being a huge asset for them.”
Said Yankees GM Brian Cashman, “When I went into the marketplace I was looking for someone who was well-versed in the new-world order of technology, obviously having an analytics background as well, and clearly important having the ability to share that with his players from the coaching side of it.”
Blake expressed confidence he will be able to overcome his lack of in-game big league experience. He said he already has gotten advice from the likes of CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. But he did acknowledge the magnitude of his new responsibility.
“Obviously,” he said, “there is a behemoth of a job of coaching a baseball team that’s in win-now mode in the American League East.”
With Erik Boland