Earlier this month Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman announced longtime pitching coach Rick Honeycutt would step down and transition to a special assistant role in the front office. Bullpen coach Mark Prior is expected to fill the vacancy.
Honeycutt served as the Dodgers pitching coach for the past 14 years, but back issues essentially forced his hand to retire from on-field duties. He underwent surgery in February, somehow only missed the first week of Spring Training, but dealt with challenges throughout the season.
Over the course of his near decade-and-a-half run as Dodgers pitching coach, Honeycutt had the privilege of working with many talented players. Clayton Kershaw perhaps stands out the most not only for his accomplishments on the field, but his unmatched work ethic as well.
Honeycutt credited Kershaw for setting a positive example to other pitchers in the organization, including those that joined the Dodgers from another club, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“Pitchers would come over from other organizations, and at first they might not have bought in, but they’d see how it worked and they’d want to become a part of it,” Honeycutt said. “Kersh was a big influence. Take a guy like Zack Greinke and he sees how a guy like Kersh prepares for the mental part. Ted Lilly called me and said he appreciated how we helped him. He said he was kind of hard-headed. I said, ‘You’re all hard-headed. It can be good and bad. But we all can improve.’”
Given their extensive history together, it should come as no surprise that Honeycutt thinks so highly of Kershaw. They have a relationship few others in the sport could rival.
Honeycutt has been Kershaw’s pitching coach since the left-hander made his MLB debut in 2008. Working with each other for over a decade proved to be successful recipe, as among the many accolades Kershaw has earned during that timeframe include eight All-Star appearances, three National League Cy Young Awards and one NL MVP honor.
Kershaw is coming off a resurgent 2019 campaign in which he went 16-5 with a 3.03 ERA, 3.86 FIP and 1.04 WHIP across 29 regular season appearances.
He struggled in the NL Division Series, however, allowing five runs in 6.1 innings of work. He took responsibility for the Dodgers’ Game 5 loss against the Washington Nationals after yielding back-to-back, game-tying home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto.
Kershaw was visibly upset after his performance, which prompted Honeycutt to console him in the clubhouse.