For new hitting coach James Rowson, timing is key
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 12, 2012 11:30PM
Prince Fielder was pulled off the bag, and the Cubs scored the go-ahead run in the eighth. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Tigers at Cubs
The facts: 7:05, Ch. 26, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.03 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (2-4, 3.99).
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:46AM
One potential benefit of Tuesday’s hitting-coach change is the way it coincides with imminent roster moves that promise to provide an influx of players from the farm system over the last months of the season.
‘‘It’s true that once the draft is over with, there seems to be more of a focus on the trade market across baseball,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. ‘‘There are more phone calls being made now than there were 10 days ago, for example.’’
The Cubs are expected to be one of the most active sellers in the market leading up to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, starting with high-demand starter Ryan Dempster, who’s already drawing interest from teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays also are among the teams scouting the Cubs in recent days.
The Cubs figure to listen when it comes to almost any player, and the result could be a dramatically changed roster peppered with such players as Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, possibly Josh Vitters at some point and some young pitchers.
‘‘We’re in a position where any opportunity to get better, any opportunity to improve our future is something that we have to take seriously,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘Even if it means making difficult decisions about the product that we’re putting on the field right now.’’
That might not sound appealing to those who already have paid $80 or more for tickets to upcoming games. Or to the players in the clubhouse Epstein praises for their work and attitude.
‘‘We have to respect that, honor that, and we’re in the trenches right with those guys trying to pull out every victory that we can,’’ he said of the players. ‘‘So it’s a delicate balance. …
‘‘But the reality of the game is trades are made in June and July, and if we didn’t fully investigate and excecute ones that made sense, we’d be doing a disservice to the organization.’’
Rizzo, 22, is expected by the end of the month regardless of trades. And if more guys from the system join him in the next few weeks and months, then that’s where having the ‘‘new voice’’ in interim hitting coach James Rowson delivering the organization’s message could come in.
‘‘That’s more coincidence than anything else,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘Certainly it’ll help. James has been working with young hitters for a while now, given the jobs that he’s had. And he’s had a chance to connect with some youngsters in our farm system who may be up here at some point later in the season. So that’ll be a benefit. But that wasn’t a motivation for this now.’’