Last weekend, Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy was forced to leave spring training because of a personal matter that required his attention. As expected, Triple-A Las Vegas hitting coach Chad Mottola filled in for him, given his familiarity with Murphy after joining the team when rosters expanded this past September as well as his rapport with many of the Jays’ hitters.
Toronto manager John Farrell was quick to mention in various offseason interviews over the winter that the Jays finished fifth (actually, sixth) in baseball in runs scored last season (they finished fifth in home runs), implying that pitching needed more addressing in 2012 rather than offense.
There are, however, multiple other offensive categories where the Jays could improve upon their middle-of-the-road 2011 standings and, given his success with players in Las Vegas, some people have brought up the idea about Mottola taking over the job in Toronto to help that process.
But what if the Jays had both Murphy and Mottola as their hitting coaches? Apparently the club has discussed it, according to an under-the-radar bit from an article on bluejays.com a few days ago.
“It has come up for discussion,” Farrell said in the piece. “I can’t sit here today and say we’re going to go with that alignment but we have talked about it.”
Both the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres have elected to use two hitting instructors for the 2012 season, something that the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals did in 2011. One is usually named the “official” hitting coach and sits in uniform in the dugout, while the other is more of an assistant hitting coach that focuses on watching video or specific mechanical adjustments, even ones as minute as toe taps or heel positions.
“The fact that Chad spent last September with us, he’s familiar not only with Murph’s program — which is an organizational program — but more specifically the checkpoints in guys’ swings,” Farrell told John Lott of the National Post, implying that both Murphy and Mottola worked just fine together.
Both Murphy and Mottola have served as the Jays’ roving hitting instructor, traveling between all of the club’s minor league affiliates to work on hitting with all players. They have both also served as the club’s Triple-A hitting coach, but the difference is Murphy did so with the Syracuse SkyChiefs in 2005, whereas Mottola has done so since 2009 with the Las Vegas 51s, helping many of the Jays’ top players and prospects in the process like Travis Snider, Brett Lawrie, Eric Thames and Adeiny Hechavarria.
Mottola has already played an instrumental role in the development of players in the upper minors, including ones that are close to or already in the big leagues. The feedback from players about Mottola is significant as well, as everyone has raved about working with him.
Whether Murphy remains as hitting coach, Mottola replaces him or the two work together will remain to be seen, but the latter is an interesting point that people likely hadn’t thought of prior to the quote from Farrell on bluejays.com.