Even as the Los Angeles Dodgers went through multiple managerial changes over the past decade-plus, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has been a mainstay on each staff. However, that’s due to change in 2020.
Not because Honeycutt or the Dodgers necessarily believe change is necessary — the pitching staff has regularly ranked among the best under his direction — but due to a back surgery the 65-year-old underwent at the beginning of Spring Training this year.
The fusion surgery made Honeycutt a late arrival to Camelback Ranch, though he was well ahead of the initial timetable. The more pressing issue were the challenges that arose with travel as Honeycutt is unable to sit for prolonged stretches.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman announced this week Honeycutt is shifting to a special assistant role in the front office.
Like Friedman mentioned, Honeycutt echoed the specifics are not yet in place, but he expects to aid Minor League pitchers and coaching staffs at the Triple-A Oklahoma City and Double-A Tulsa levels, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“We haven’t sat down and gone through it, but I anticipate spending time at Double-A and Triple-A levels with our top young pitchers and [fast-tracking] them as quick as we can to make them better,” he said.
“I’d be teaching our pitching coaches things I’ve learned over time. Keep that balance and tradition of what the Dodgers have been. My focus has always been to pass along what I learned from Ron Perranoski and Sandy Koufax and Dave Wallace and all the way back to Red Adams. The way they presented it, and the way I perceived it, has always been some of the best information that’s out there. I’ve always used their techniques as examples. I want that to continue, hopefully.”
The Dodgers have received an influx of young hurlers from their Minor League system over the past few seasons, beginning with Julio Urias. Shoulder surgery delayed his full progression to the Majors, but that’s not been the case for Walker Buehler.
Buehler and Urias were joined on the Dodgers this season by top prospects Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. The two rookies fared well in their auditions as starters and relief pitchers, and May earned a spot on the National League Division Series roster.
With Honeycutt stepping aside, Friedman indicated the Dodgers will promote Mark Prior from bullpen coach. Prior joined the Dodgers for the 2018 season, which was one year after there were rumblings Honeycutt could be near retirement or a change in role.
That now comes after a season in which the Dodgers led the Majors in ERA (3.37) for a third consecutive season and also finished with the best WHIP (1.10), opponents’ on-base percentage (.282) and fewest walks (392) and runs allowed (618).