Thirteenth in a series
Editor's note: As the countdown continues toward the April 6 opener for the Cubs, Daily Herald Sports Writer Bruce Miles will offer his analysis of each position on the team and the key issues facing the club this season.
Q. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has survived more managers than most - is he that good and that valuable?
Miles: Larry is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game, and all you have to do is ask pitchers around both leagues who've worked with him.
His first year was Don Baylor's last. He survived Dusty Baker, who did his pitching coach no favors. And he's now in his third year under Lou Piniella, no easy task.
Larry has a cerebral approach to the art of pitching, mixing both mechanical instruction and motivation.
Q. Whatever happened to the towel drill?
Miles: I guess they haven't needed it this spring. For as maligned as it became, the towel drill - made famous by Mark Prior - taught the importance of proper release and follow-through.
Q. It seems like it took a while for Lou to warm to bench coach Alan Trammell. How big a role does Trammell play both in the dugout and in the clubhouse?
Miles: Trammell basically runs spring training and is a good sounding board for Lou during games. As a former shortstop with what many believe to be Hall of Fame credentials, "Tram" has been used to being "in" every game.
I find him to be extremely organized and ready to tackle problems, such as when Ryan Theriot was having trouble with dropping throws to the second-base bag last year.
As far as the clubhouse goes, Lou and his staff let the players have their space.
Q. Third base coach Mike Quade has been oft-criticized. What's your view on how he's done and how does he compare to Wendell Kim?
Miles: Nobody compares with Wavin' Wendell. Quade is an aggressive third-base coach who has had his share of runners thrown out.
What people don't see are the early-morning drills he does with outfielders. Like everything else, the work takes with some players and doesn't with others.
Q. How would you rate this collection of coaches to Dusty Baker's staff?
Miles: First of all, this staff is a lot friendlier. Baker's staff seemed to have an us-against-them attitude when it came to the media, with Larry Rothschild being the lone exception.
Chris Speier was an outstanding third-base coach, and remember, GM Jim Hendry brought him in.
The current staff seems more intent on instruction and coaching than being friends with the players or defenders of the manager.
• Got a question about the Cubs for Bruce Miles? Visit his blog, Chicago's Inside Pitch, to share your questions and comments.