D-backs round out staff with Harkey, Stottlemyre Jr.
PHOENIX -- Mike Harkey's first experience with Kirk Gibson came in 1990 when Harkey was pitching for the Cubs.
"I think the only thing I remember about Gibby was pitching against him and him grounding out to second base and him yelling obscenities at me for not throwing him a fastball," said Harkey, who instead threw a changeup. "I laughed. It was me facing basically a living legend at the time. Gibby was a gamer and I was excited to get him out. It was a compliment to have him screaming at me, because it meant I got him out."
Gibson apparently did not hold a grudge, as he hired Harkey to be his pitching coach and Mel Stottlemyre Jr. as bullpen coach Monday. With the additions, the D-backs rounded out their coaching staff.
Harkey, the Yankees' bullpen coach for the past six seasons, was originally drafted by the Cubs and played in Chicago from 1988-93. In all, Harkey spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, compiling a 36-36 record to go with a 4.49 ERA.
Harkey began his coaching career in 2000 with Class A Rancho Cucamonga in the Padres' organization. The San Diego general manager who hired him for that job? Current D-backs GM Kevin Towers.
Towers had initially gotten to know Harkey when the right-hander spent two Spring Trainings with the Padres in 1998-99. In '98, he got hurt and missed the season, and in '99, he was released at the end of camp.
After that, Harkey decided his playing career was over.
"During the middle of that season -- June or July -- I had conversations with KT talking about getting back into the game," Harkey said. "And we actually went to a Lake Elsinore game, I met him up there, we watched the game, talked about it and he asked if I was interested. And the rest is history. I became a Minor League coach that very next year."
One of the main tenets of Harkey's philosophy as a pitching coach centers around the first pitch of an at-bat.
"Strike one is definitely super important for all pitchers, just in setting the tone," Harkey said. "It allows you to work quick. It allows you to follow a game plan a lot simpler. Strike one is huge. It's one of my pet peeves, as a Minor League pitching coach something that I preached upon. And it was something that I preached upon as a Major League coach. That was the biggest thing that I talked about, was getting strike one."
That shouldn't be a problem with his new staff, as the D-backs were tied for second in the National League in throwing 62 percent of their first pitches for strikes.
Harkey takes the place of Charles Nagy, who was dismissed following three seasons as the team's pitching coach. At the time the dismissal was announced, Towers emphasized the fact that he wanted his pitchers throwing inside more often.
Harkey said he believes in pitchers being able to use both sides of the plate.
"When we talk about both sides of the plate, we're talking about the ability to be able to pitch inside effectively, and that's twofold," Harkey said. "One, being able to get outs inside when you need to get outs inside. And being able to pitch inside to be able to get your outs away. I think in Major League Baseball and baseball in general, it's a trend that's kind of gotten lost. It's not something that I'm going to be able to change in a Spring Training. I think it's something that has to go along with the trust and the ability to be able to believe that is the right philosophy, and also be able to identify the guys that need to do it and find out if they're able to do it."
This will be Stottlemyre's second stint on the big league staff. Stottlemyre was the team's pitching coach in 2009-10.
After not having his contract renewed following the 2010 season, Stottlemyre became the organization's pitching coordinator and has received rave reviews from young pitchers coming up through the system.