Red Sox to hire Carl Willis as pitching coach


In a move that will surprise roughly nobody, the Red Sox have decided to hire Carl Willis as the team’s new pitching coach. Willis will join the team for today’s 1:07 EST game against the Blue Jays, taking over for Juan Nieves, whom the Red Sox fired on Thursday.

But as much as we may like to blame Nieves for the rotation’s failures, chances are that there’s more to this staff’s struggles than one unsatisfactory pitching coach. Willis will have his hands full attempting to right the ship in a rotation that currently ranks as the worst starting five in baseball. And though there have been a few positive signs and peripherals suggest that the Red Sox are due for some improvement, this new occupation will be a challenge for Willis.

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Luckily, Willis has plenty of experience as a major league pitching coach. Though the Red Sox signed him away from a job as pitching coach for the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Indians, he has served as a major league pitching coach with both the Indians (2003-2009) and the Mariners (2010-2013).

Though it’s tough to know how responsible the pitching coach is for the success and failures of a pitching staff, Willis’s pitchers do have a history of success. The Indians ranked 14th in overall ERA during his tenure in Cleveland (which isn’t great, but is above average) and, more telling, Willis oversaw the development of a pair of aces in C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Once again, the Mariners ranked 14th overall in ERA from 2010-2013 but Willis has been at least partially responsible for the development of guys like Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and perhaps Hisashi Iwakuma‘s acclimation to the major leagues.

This was the anticipated hiring for the Red Sox, with Ken Rosenthal indicating that he was the primary candidate to replace Nieves. Still, even with a new pitching coach with a history of success, it will take some work for Boston’s pitching staff to right its woes. We’d all like to believe that firing Nieves and hiring Willis is a quick fix to the Red Sox’ problems, but that’s likely not the case and the staff’s troubles are detached from the pitching coach. Still, Willis has a positive track record and should be able to provide valuable insight to the pitching staff.