When people talk about baseball’s best pitching coaches, you always hear about a lot of different names, but you never seem to hear enough about how good Jim Hickey is and how he is one of the most important reasons for the Rays’ success. The Rays have one of the best pitching coaches throughout their farm systems, which is why they seem to have their own power plant that just builds and produces pitching prospects one after another. Hickey, however, does his magic with a yearly concept that the Rays have made the Rays as an attractive location for Free Agent Relief Pitchers looking to revamp their careers and increase their values on the free agent market.
Just ask Al Reyes, Troy Percival, Joaquin Benoit, JP Howell, Juan Cruz, Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta, Rafael Soriano and Kyle Farnsworth what Jim Hickey has done for them. Hickey adjusted their pitching mechanics, moved them across the pitching rubber, asked them to use a certain pitch more, helped teach them a new pitch or gave them the confidence that they may have never had. It is those things that can turn a pitchers career around for the better.
Jake McGee and Wade Davis both were highly regarded pitchers coming through the Rays farm system, but injuries and ineffectiveness moved both to the bullpen. McGee is deemed to be one of the most successful and best relievers in baseball in high-leverage situations without earning a save. Davis was given a long-term deal with the Rays, but never showed much as a SP and was moved to the bullpen where his “bulldog” mentality on the mound would hopefully lead to more success. Numbers-wise, Davis had a successful year as a reliever and was part of the James Shields deal for Wil Myers and other prospects.
In Chicago, everyone hears how great Don Cooper is at maximizing talent from members of the White Sox rotation and “Coop” gets notoriety nationwide for his successes as a pitching coach. However, if one looks deeper, his successes are sometimes short-lived and his magic never seems to work as well with relievers. Jim Hickey, on the other hand, has shown to be successful in cultivating a players talent no matter if they’re a member of the rotation or if they’re a member of the bullpen.
When, I ask when, will Jim Hickey get the credit and acclaim that he so rightfully deserves? Davey Martinez was thought to be one of the Rays’ best kept secrets, is Jim another?