Padres dismiss pitching coach Rothschild

August 23rd, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres dismissed pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Monday, amid rotation concerns that have plagued the team during its second-half freefall.

Bullpen coach Ben Fritz was named as the team's interim pitching coach for the remainder of the season.

"Larry has been a tremendous asset for our organization over the last two seasons, and we appreciate the experience, hard work and dedication that he brought to the position," manager Jayce Tingler said in a statement. "We wish him nothing but the best in the future."

The decision to relieve Rothschild of his duties came on the heels of a 2-9 stretch that dropped the Padres behind the Reds in the race for the second NL Wild Card spot. The Friars posted a 6.20 ERA in that span and own MLB’s 10th-highest ERA (4.83) since the All-Star break.

“The lack of consistency, the lack of production, the belief we have ability-wise on the mound -- we wanted to change the voice these last 36 games or so,” Tingler said in a Monday afternoon video conference. “Larry has brought a lot to us – a lot of experience, a ton of knowledge. I believe he was the right guy at the right time; we’ve won a ton of games with Larry.

“But we’ve had some inconsistency on the mound, and I just think at the end of the day, we haven’t reached our level of production consistently on the mound. With 36 games to go, we wanted to try to give a different message, a different voice.”

The rotation's poor performance this season, and particularly of late, comes as a surprise, considering the team's rotation depth on paper entering the season. But the Padres have been hit hard by injuries, with Yu Darvish and Chris Paddack currently on the injured list, Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez out for the year following Tommy John surgery and Dinelson Lamet transitioning to a relief role after four stints on the IL with elbow and forearm trouble.

The injuries can hardly be attributed to Rothschild, but perhaps some of the rotation's poorer performances can be. Rookie left-hander Ryan Weathers, who owned a 2.47 ERA at the start of July, has seen that number jump to 5.27 as he's worked through serious growing pains. Meanwhile, former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell has posted a career-high 4.82 ERA.

It all adds up to a 4.37 rotation ERA that ranks 17th in the Majors, despite home games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

Tingler said Monday’s decision was his and his alone after about 10 days worth of discussions with general manager A.J. Preller about the possibility. But he added that Rothschild’s departure isn’t viewed as a catch-all for the team’s recent struggles.

The Padres held a 6 1/2-game lead in the Wild Card race less than a month ago, but they now find themselves outside the postseason picture for the first time since June 17. They open a three-game series with the Dodgers on Tuesday -- the first of 19 games remaining against the Dodgers and the first-place Giants down the stretch.

“Larry is definitely not a scapegoat in this,” Tingler said. “Me, as the manager ultimately, I’m responsible for the staff. I’m responsible for our performance and getting our players to play to their abilities.”

Rothschild, 67, joined the Padres organization prior to the 2020 season, after Tingler was hired as San Diego’s new manager. Rothschild previously served as the Yankees’ pitching coach from 2011-19 and has also coached for the Reds, Marlins and Cubs. He was the first manager in Rays franchise history, going 205-294 from 1998-2001 over three-plus seasons in Tampa Bay.

As for Fritz, he has drawn rave reviews for his work with the team's relievers, but this marks his first stint as a big league pitching coach. The San Diego bullpen has posted a 3.12 ERA, the lowest mark in the National League, despite leading the league with 530 2/3 innings. Fritz, who has spent seven seasons with the organization in a variety of roles, has served the past two years as the team’s bullpen coach.

“He knows deliveries, he knows pitching, he knows analytics,” Tingler said. “We’re excited, even though it is a sad day moving on from Larry, a man that I first and foremost have a ton of respect for, who has shared a lot of knowledge and experience with myself. But moving forward, I’m also excited for the opportunity for Fritz to see what he can provide to our pitchers down the stretch.”