Niebla good 'fit' as Padres pitching coach

October 27th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are still in the process of narrowing down their managerial candidates, but they've come to a decision on their next pitching coach.

Ruben Niebla, who spent 21 seasons with Cleveland, most recently as assistant pitching coach, has been officially hired as pitching coach in San Diego, the team confirmed on Wednesday.

“He’s had real experiences, over 20 years, coaching in an organization, basically going from rookie ball to the big leagues,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. “He’s got a track record. He’s got knowledge. And he’s been around one of the most successful pitching programs in the game. And, then, from a personality standpoint, he was just somebody that fit for us.”

The move comes two months after the Padres parted ways with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who had spent two seasons in that role.

Niebla, a Calexico native who currently resides in nearby El Centro, Calif., has drawn rave reviews for his work in Cleveland, where he helped develop a steady line of impactful pitchers. (That includes right-hander Mike Clevinger, who was dealt to the Padres and should be full-go by Spring Training after missing the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery).

Prior to the 2020 season, Niebla spent seven seasons as Cleveland's Minor League pitching coordinator. Sources familiar with Niebla’s coaching style noted his intense but personal teaching methods and an expert ability to relay information to his pitchers.

“He really gets to know guys on an individual level,” Preller said. “They feel his commitment to their development. ... He’s got great knowledge and feel. There’s a care factor involved, and I think all the pitchers that we’ve talked to, they just kept reiterating that.”

Since Niebla took over as pitching coordinator in 2013, Cleveland’s 3.74 collective ERA is the best mark in the American League.

The move comes somewhat ahead of schedule, with the Padres yet to hire a manager, but sources indicated that the team simply didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to land Niebla. San Diego will likely wait until it hires a manager to build the remainder of the coaching staff. The club has begun managerial interviews, but has yet to pare down those candidates, according to sources.

Preller has declined comment on any specifics of the managerial search, which began earlier this month when the Padres parted ways with Jayce Tingler after two seasons.