2/14/2014 3:27 P.M. ET
McClure brings new voice to Phillies' pitchers
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- For the first time since 2004, Phillies pitchers will hear somebody other than Rich Dubee offer instruction in the bullpen and on the mound.
The organization declined to bring back Dubee following last season, and after a lengthy search with numerous candidates, it finally found Bob McClure, who has been asked to improve a pitching staff that finished 27th in baseball with a 4.32 ERA.
"They are used to a voice and a routine," McClure said. "I don't know if 'challenge' is the right word. It's like anything where you fall into a routine, then a new boss comes in and says, 'Listen, I want it done this way.' At first it's a little bit of a culture shock, but you're basically trying to get the same thing accomplished, but it might be in a different way."
McClure enters camp knowing his rotation when everybody is healthy: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick and most likely Roberto Hernandez. If the Phillies carry a seven-man bullpen as expected, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and most likely Jake Diekman are locks to make the team, although Adams is behind schedule following right shoulder surgery.
But plenty of things can happen between the first days of Spring Training and Opening Day on March 31 in Texas.
In the meantime, McClure, 61, is just happy to get started.
"I have twin 2-year-olds, so I needed to get some sleep," the pitching coach said. "I was at home and [the Phillies] called. Everything I heard was so positive about the organization, and I talked to a lot of good people that I trust, and they said this is a really good baseball organization. That's really what got me there. So many of the organizations are getting into the computer and data and number-crunching, and they said, 'There's a lot of good old-school baseball people.' And that intrigued me."
McClure said he uses statistics and modern metrics, but he is not beholden to them.
"I think there's a place for old school with the new stuff, and a place for the new stuff with the old school," he said. "I think a mixture is good."
McClure talked about his pitchers focusing on pitching down in the zone, which he acknowledged is something Dubee certainly preached during his nine-year tenure. But sometimes it helps to hear it from a different voice.
The Phillies hope that is the case.
"Down in the zone is your thought and priority before you start thinking about edges of the plate]," McClure said. "Hopefully those younger guys that are just getting their feet wet, it's going to help them cut down on the walks. Cut down on the runs scored, cut down on the ERA."
McClure not only is a former big league pitcher and pitching coach, but he is a published author. He and Dave Downing wrote "Rotting, the Craze of the 90's" in 1991.
"It's not a couch potato. It's a clean rot," he said. "We believed in exercise, take a shower, and for two days, do nothing. Even if the phone rings, even if there's a possibility of a hurricane, you're not moving. We even designed clothing that was reversible and fire retardant so in case of a fire, you didn't have to move so much."
The book got enough attention that a couple of universities asked him to speak. The Jenny Jones Show called, too.
"It's a real philosophy," he said. "It's tongue in cheek, but it will help anybody, because what it's doing -- and we've all gone there -- it's erasing the guilt for doing something that's so good for you and yet you're being lambasted for it. We've all been there."
And if any of his pitchers subscribe to the rot philosophy? He said it's OK, as long as it comes in the offseason.
Lee knew he wouldn't need to sell A.J. on Philly
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett share the same agent, so Lee had a decent idea what was happening when contract negotiations heated up between the Phillies and Burnett.
But Lee said Friday at Bright House Field that he never recruited Burnett to join the Phillies, although he told his agent, Darek Braunecker, he would be willing to call. Lee said he finally spoke with Burnett after the righty agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $16 million deal.
The official announcement could come this weekend after Burnett takes his physical.
"I kind of know how he is," Lee said. "He was going to make the decision for himself. It's not really going to matter what I say, so I didn't try to throw a huge pitch on him. ... He's got good stuff, no way around it. I like our rotation. I haven't seen [Miguel Alfredo] Gonzalez throw much, but it makes us deeper either way. [Roberto] Hernandez is an established guy who knows how to pitch. We've got some depth. It's nice to have multiple options."
Phillies might stay away from free agent Madson
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies watched Ryan Madson throw late last week in Arizona, and Ruben Amaro Jr. made an interesting comment Wednesday when asked about it.
"Our reports were good when we saw him, so he's going to sign somewhere," the general manager said.
Interesting because Amaro said Madson is going to sign somewhere, not necessarily with the Phillies. If the Phils were in the thick of negotiations or seriously interested, Amaro typically would have much less to say.
There could be a reason for that. Sources said Madson has been telling teams he is looking for a guaranteed Major League contract. That might be too much for the Phillies to handle, considering they just signed A.J. Burnett, but most importantly because Madson has not pitched in a big league game since 2011 because of right elbow surgery.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.