JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins' marquee offseason moves were hiring Don Mattingly as manager and Barry Bonds as hitting coach, as well as signing free-agent left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. Those transactions made the biggest splashes and generated the most attention.
But as Spring Training launched on Friday with pitchers' and catchers' workouts, the imprints of an under-the-radar hiring surfaced. The first day of camp offered the opportunity for Jim Benedict, the organization's new vice president of pitching development, to spring into action.
News that Benedict would be leaving his position as a special assistant to the general manager with the Pirates to join Miami didn't receive much fanfare when it was announced by text message on Oct. 23. To the Marlins, it was a huge deal. They acquired a 55-year-old, widely regarded in the industry as a pitching guru, to oversee their entire pitching operation.
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"[What attracted us was] his knowledge and feel for pitching, and he will connect our Major and Minor Leagues," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "He has a great working relationship with our Major League pitching coach [Juan Nieves]. Everybody [is] on the same page. The information that he takes from his time at the big leagues, it filters down to our Minor Leagues."
Benedict's reach will extend from top prospect Tyler Kolek to established starter Tom Koehler.
Up and down the organization, Benedict will be implementing his "five levels of why."
"It's where you figure out why this happened," Benedict said. "Then you present it to the player. A lot of times they've never heard of it, or they've heard of it, and forgot it, or whatever. Then you build them back up. Everybody is different. There is no one way. Every guy has a different avenue and a different way of getting to that [moment of recognition].'"
Landing Benedict came at a price. As compensation, Miami dealt pitching prospect Trevor Williams to Pittsburgh for right-hander Richard Mitchell.
In uniform on Friday, Benedict was hands on, observing the 17 bullpen sessions thrown at the Roger Dean Stadium complex, as well as interacting with Mattingly, Nieves and the rest of the staff.
When necessary, Benedict pointed out things to specific players, and when he sought some visual evidence, he pulled out his cell phone and personally took videos.
"The thing about Bennie is he's very prepared," said Marc DelPiano, Miami's new vice president of player development. "He does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work to gather information, to make the necessary fixes in guys to get them over the hump. His due diligence as far as preparation is probably the key to all of his success over the years."
DelPiano, also formerly with the Pirates, was instrumental in luring Benedict to Miami. Benedict has a vast video library on all of the organization's pitchers.
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"These are all visual learners, they all grow up with TV sets," Benedict said. "They all grow up [with] video games and YouTube. It's a generational thing. It's not going anywhere. It doesn't matter what country you're from, you're pretty much a visual learner these days."
Benedict has a track record of detecting mechanical flaws and getting pitchers to buy into the necessary adjustments to improve. Along with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Benedict is credited with helping the likes of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez and Mark Melancon.
Over the past four years, the Pirates have a collective ERA of 3.45, including a 3.21 regular-season ERA in 2015. The Marlins, meanwhile, have a 3.90 ERA in the past two seasons.
"You have to have a history to be fixed," Benedict said. "That means something was going well, and it's broken now. Whether it's literally broken, or mentally, or physically, he lost his way. Whatever he did. You go through all the avenues you can."