The St. Louis Cardinals will have a pair of new faces in charge of their pitching next season, pitching coaches Derek Lilliquist and Blaise Ilsley were informed yesterday they will not have their contracts renewed for 2018.
The news was announced this morning at the end of season press conference with President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak, General Manager Michael Girsch, and Manager Mike Matheny.
“We’re a very process-oriented organization,” explained Mozeliak. “When you’re thinking about where we are and what we need to do moving forward, we felt this was an opportunity to improve. Clearly, when you look back at the success of our pitching, it’s been good. But I felt like the process was not ideal for future growth. In terms of what that looks like, I think all of us want to be patient during this process.”
Lilliquist has been in the St. Louis organization since 2002, when he started as the pitching coach for Johnson City (Rookie). He was eventually promoted to the Cardinals bullpen coach in 2010. Lilliquist was then promoted to pitching coach after Dave Duncan retired after the 2011 season.
After five seasons as the pitching coach in Memphis (AAA), Blaise Ilsley was promoted to the Cardinals bullpen coach after the end of the 2012 season.
While Mozeliak stated the young arms the pitching staff could boast over the next couple of years will not be a likely factor in the coaching hires, he did point to the optimization of leveraging modern strategies and analytics.
“When you hear about rotation management and you talk about third time through the order, there’s times where that is very real and you can do that,” he explained. “September comes to mind, where it’s a lot easier when you expanded rosters. Then there’s in-season, where you’re trying to save your bullpen at times because it’s on fumes that ultimately you have to push a starter.
“But when you’re looking at pitch strategy and the modernization of the tools that we have available to us, we need somebody that understands it, has interest in it, can communicate it, and can teach it.”
As for what Mike Matheny might prefer in a new pitching coach, he also leaned towards the modern methodology.
“The staff works as a collective unit,” said Matheny. “We’re always in conversation, that’s the way I believe it works best. When we’re making sure that we’re covering all our bases and we have some very talented people that know they’re area. A lot of that is just talking through–whether it’s before or after a game and then strategically during and making sure we have everything communicated properly. So just like any other position, it comes down to communication. It comes down to knowledge. It comes down as Mo said, being able to take what’s next. We have some brilliant people upstairs that are able to go and find some unique ways of looking at, not just statistics, but using technology also. I think there’s always that opportunity to push that needle forward.”
While noting that Chris Carpenter could have a larger role with the team this season, Mozeliak quickly ended any speculation by adding that the former ace is not ready to take on a full-time position with the organization.
Carpenter will continue in a hybrid-assistant type role. That said, other internal candidates could be considered.
“Historically, I’ve always tried to promote from within,” continued Mozeliak, 22 years. “You see people that work hard at the minor league level that never get the opportunity to get to the big leagues, it’s very rewarding and so that’s something that we always try to do. But this is a unique spot. We have to get this right. Mike knows the importance of what a pitching and a bullpen coach mean to our staff. I think we’re all incentified to make sure we get the right people.”