by Ryan Clarke
SCOTTSDALE — Through all the peaks and valleys the San Francisco Giants have been through in the last 17 years, pitching coach Dave Righetti has been a mainstay, passing on the lessons he learned during his playing career to a new generation of talented pitchers.
Righetti, entering his 18th year with the club, has now spent more seasons as a coach than he did on a major league mound. The game has changed dramatically since his playing days, but Righetti said he’s been able to adjust his coaching philosophy.
“The players are different — they’re being taught different from an early age,” Righetti observed. “There’s a lot of instruction coming from almost everywhere.”
Back in Righetti’s day, it was all up to the individual. Pitchers didn’t have the opportunities to train the way they do now or receive the in-depth instruction from the beginning of their career.
Righetti spent the first decade of his playing days with the New York Yankees. During that time, Righetti said baseball philosophy was simple: “Do your job, or we’ll find someone else.”
While that still holds true to a degree, organizations have grown more patient with pitchers and tolerant of their inevitable slumps. There’s so much money invested in the position that clubs are willing to let young pitchers develop, often limiting their pitch counts in the minor leagues.
But Righetti and the Giants have been lucky, or smart. They’ve won three World Series titles since 2010, fueled by arms like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and closer Brian Wilson, among others.
Righetti gives credit for his success as a pitching coach to the talent of his players and the way the club has operated in recent years.
“The continuity in the organization carries over to these guys,” Righetti said. “They all understand that when they get to the big leagues, it’s just an extension of what they’ve been learning all those years in the minor leagues.
“I’m at the end of that extension.”
(Video by Alonzo Montalvo/Cronkite News)
Continuity across the board has allowed the Giants to sustain their success under Righetti and manager Bruce Bochy’s tutelage. Up-and-comers like Hunter Strickland absorb as much as they can from big names like Bumgarner, and their relationship with Righetti has proven critical to their development.
Strickland said Righetti’s competitiveness and experience are invaluable.
“When we’re going through struggles, he’s able to see things that we wouldn’t normally feel,” Strickland said. “We’re all competitors. I don’t think you ever lose that, so you see him in the dugout thinking all game.”
At the heart of Righetti’s philosophy is maintaining a sense of professionalism. He said he’s grateful for the opportunity to be able to put on the uniform every day — just as he was when he played — and he hopes the new generation feels the same responsibility.
“There’s always somebody watching you,” Righetti said. “If you’re going to take care of your career properly, you’re going to do the thing that’s necessary to do.
“If you don’t, you probably won’t be around long unless you’ve got some kind of great arm.”