Iapoce returning to Cubs as hitting coach

October 15th, 2018

CHICAGO -- Once word got out that Anthony Iapoce was returning to the Cubs organization as the hitting coach, his phone started to buzz with text messages. By late Monday, a half dozen players had reached out to Iapoce to congratulate him and welcome him back.

That familiarity made the job attractive. But Iapoce is quick to point out that even though he knows several of the Cubs players in his former job as the team's Minor League hitting coordinator, he can't snap his fingers and fix an offense that struggled in the second half this season.

"Just because you know the players doesn't mean it'll bring instant success right away," Iapoce said Monday night. "There are plenty of places that hire people because they're familiar with certain players and it doesn't work out. You feel pretty good going into it knowing the players and what they've been through in the Minor Leagues."

The Cubs are hoping Iapoce's background with the team will help. He was named the hitting coach on Monday, replacing Chili Davis, who was dismissed last week after one season. Iapoce, 45, just completed his third season as the Rangers' hitting coach and third season on a big league coaching staff.

"It was a good feeling to be wanted, not only by the Rangers but by the Cubs," Iapoce said by phone from his New York home. "It's the first job where I will go back to something familiar which is a big deal to me. I've never had that."

He began his coaching career in the Marlins' system from 2006-09 and spent three seasons as the Blue Jays' roving hitting coordinator from 2010-12.

"You're always starting new and you're always trying to lay down the groundwork and the foundation of what you're trying to accomplish as a team," Iapoce said of his previous jobs. "Now, going back to somewhere that you're familiar with as far as players, coaches, front office, yourself, you can go in right away and be yourself and not be too concerned about looking over your shoulder coaching. You can coach right away."

He was a special assistant to the general manager/player development with the Cubs from 2013-15 and oversaw the Minor League hitting program, working with young players such as , Albert Almora Jr. and .

The Cubs did finish the 2018 season leading the National League in batting average but had a disappointing second half, and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein vowed to make changes. The Cubs led the NL in runs (476) and on-base percentage (.345) in the first half but dropped to eighth in runs scored (285) and ninth in OBP (.316) after the All-Star break. In the first half, they hit 100 home runs, but hit only 67 in the second half.

"It's a young team and sometimes you forget that because of the 2016 World Series, but they're still growing up," Iapoce said. "Your first year [as a player] is always the toughest -- you're surviving, but then they start to figure you out and and you have to make adjustments and the opposition makes adjustments. We dealt with that in Texas. We were really young and guys were trying to find their way.

"It's just a matter of guys getting comfortable and what they can do to help the Cubs win the ultimate goal, which is the World Series," he said.

The first step for Iapoce will be to reach out to players to re-introduce himself and talk about their offseason plans.

An announcement regarding the entire 2019 Cubs coaching staff will come at a later date. One of the reasons for the delay is that bench coach Brandon Hyde is interviewing for some of the managerial openings in the Major Leagues.