Young Reds pitchers familiar with Riggins
New coach worked as club's Minor League pitching coordinator
CINCINNATI -- Heading into next season, the Reds have a pitching staff full of young pitchers and question marks about who might fill the various roles. Their new pitching coach, Mark Riggins, has a big advantage in one respect.
The organization's Minor League pitching coordinator the past four seasons, Riggins has seen or worked with most of the pitchers currently on Cincinnati's roster.
"My familiarity hopefully makes the transition between those guys and myself pretty easy," Riggins said. "The guys that have come through the system kind of understand already what I'm all about so that helps out a lot."
Riggins, who will turn 59 on Jan. 3, attended Murray State University, where he met his future wife, Tammie. They live in Murray, Ky., approximately five hours from Cincinnati. He has spent most of his career on the development side of baseball.
From 1996-2007, Riggins was the Cardinals' pitching coordinator and worked there for Walt Jocketty, who is now the Reds' president of baseball operations. Riggins also held the same role for the Cubs from 2008-10.
As a pitcher for five seasons in the Cardinals' system, Riggins reached Triple-A in 1983 but got no further. His brief stints in the big leagues came as a pitching coach for the Cardinals in 1995 and the Cubs in 2011. During his career, he's worked under some of the game's more respected pitching coaches -- Dave Duncan for the Cardinals, Larry Rothschild for the Cubs and Bryan Price on the Reds. Price, of course, is now Cincinnati's manager.
"We have to develop our pitchers at the Major League level. We felt he was best suited to help in the development process," Jocketty said. "In Mark -- along with [bullpen coach] Mack Jenkins and Bryan Price -- we have three excellent guys that can develop them at the Major League level."
Riggins has seen many of the pitchers he's worked with over the years reach their goals of making it to the Major Leagues. He's taken great pride in helping them.
"I'm a coach, but you have to be a good teacher," Riggins said. "I take a lot of time with these guys and invest a lot of time with them, and care about the guys. When you see guys move up, succeed and get to the big leagues, you get a lot of gratification from that."
Success was hard to come by in 2015 for several Reds pitchers, in part because of injuries but especially after the July trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. That left an all-rookie rotation to finish the season and an overtaxed bullpen to help fill the innings.
From July 29 to the end of the season, the 5.46 ERA posted by the Reds' rotation was the highest in the Majors. There were bright spots with Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias, who should be locks for the 2016 rotation. Michael Lorenzen, John Lamb, Jon Moscot, Brandon Finnegan and others will compete for the remaining spots. Veteran Homer Bailey is expected back from Tommy John surgery in May. The club could also sign a veteran starter who can eat innings.
"It gives us some options there," Riggins said. "Ultimately, some of those guys will have to go into the bullpen or back to Triple-A once we make those decisions in Spring Training."
Although several pitchers took their lumps while pressed into service at the big league level, Riggins believes there will be benefits from the lessons learned.
"Some of the guys have a head start in their development," Riggins said. "They could go home this winter, analyze themselves at what they did while in Cincinnati and make some adjustments for what they need to work on and fix over the wintertime. It gives some of those guys a big advantage to have gotten some time in up there to sort things out before Spring Training next year."
Riggins is excited to be back working in the Major Leagues. It's an opportunity he's hoped would come again.
"That was my goal once I left Chicago after 2011," he said. "The older you get, your goals kind of change a little bit. Mine was still to get back to the Major League level. I have confidence in my ability and I still want to work for quite a long time and work with the best guys in the world. It's the ultimate goal and satisfaction."