Giants' pitching stability a reflection of Righetti

Giants' pitching stability a reflection of Righetti

Giants' pitching stability a reflection of Righetti
NEW YORK -- Before any other aspect of Dave Righetti's extended tenure as pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants can be discussed or evaluated, a few names need be mentioned: Art Fowler, Tom Morgan, Clyde King, Stan Williams, Jerry Walker, Sammy Ellis, Jeff Torborg, Mark Connor, Bill Monbouquette and Bill Connors. Exhale!

Now, understand Righetti is in his 13th season as Giants' pitching tutor. And that with the leave of absence taken by Dave Duncan of the Cardinals, Righetti has the longest tenure of any big league pitching coach, and that no Giants pitching coach has served longer than Righetti since Horace Stoneham applied the advice of Horace Greeley and moved the franchise from upper Manhattan to Candlestick Point in 1958.

Recognize that the Giants' pitching situation is the picture of stability. Righetti has been with the club for 13 years, and his assistant, Mark Gardner, is in his 10th season.

And now, about those 10 men up top. Each was a pitching coach during Righetti's 11-year tenure pitching with the Yankees. Fowler, Williams and Ellis had three assignments each, King had four, and Torborg and Connor had two. The Yankees had a pitching rotation. George Steinbrenner had a pitching-coach rotation. Stability never was part of it.

Righetti smirks when he thinks of the whim and wisdom of Steinbrenner, and what Graig Nettles once called our "pitching-coach stew." Variety wasn't all it was cracked up to be in those days.

"We used to ask every other day, 'Who do we have now?'" Righetti said Friday afternoon when the Giants arrived at Citi Field for a four-game, wrap-around series against the Mets. But in a strange way -- "a backwards way," he called it -- the many coaches helped to mold Righetti into the successful coach he is now.

"I was exposed to a lot of different theories and ideas," Righetti said, seemingly leaving something unsaid. "We had to deal with the differences."

Righetti dealt with the pressure, too. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1981, and a Minor League pitcher for part of 1982. "I didn't pitch well in the [1981] World Series," he said. "So George was on me from the beginning of '82. And I knew if I didn't get going, someone -- I think it was Steamer [Stan Williams] was going to lose his job or get sent to Triple-A with me. George didn't fire guys. He recycled them. But it was going to be because of me. That was pressure."

The pressure is significantly less now. The Giants way -- with pitching at least -- is Righetti's. His job security is as strong as Willie McCovey's bat. The Giants staff has the wherewithal to be rather independent. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito -- the Giants starter Friday night -- are wealthy men. But they listen to the man with security and with the knowledge gleaned from starting and closing in a high-profile environment and working for a baseball dictator. But Righetti acknowledges the security -- read income -- of his pitchers "does change the conversation."

Righetti finds his current job more rewarding than pitching -- a rare sense among coaches with resumés of success as players.

"As a player, I never won," he said. "And I was responsible for a lot. I had to worry about myself, 'cause I was the closer. Now I think about the starters, the closers, everybody. It's more time put in, and maybe there's more stress at times. But there is great satisfaction with the success we've had."