For all that they have done to reinvent and re-energize their major-league coaching staff, the St. Louis Cardinals still have one major piece left unfilled: pitching coach.
That’s where the team began its rebuild of the dugout leadership in first place, telling Derek Lilliquist and bullpen assistant Blaise Ilsley on Oct. 3 that they won’t be back in 2018. It continued Monday when the team announced the return of third base coach Jose Oquendo and the addition of fan favorite Willie McGee as a full-time assistant.
President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has said he’d like to have the replacement for Lilliquist under contract by the end of this month, but that may be optimistic considering the rash of other pitching coach vacancies that have opened just since the weekend.
So who is on the Cardinals’ short list of candidates?
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The former Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach is the top choice for several teams with pitching coach openings, including the Cardinals.
Under Hickey, the Rays ranked in the top two American League teams in ERA for four of his first five seasons and have been in the top five in eight of his 11 seasons in Tampa. Before that, he mentored the Houston Astros staff that defeated the Cardinals in the 2005 NLCS.
The San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox are reported to have interest in Hickey as well. And, in firing Chris Bosio, the Chicago Cubs have made themselves a strong contender.
Hickey worked for Cubs manager Joe Maddon for eight years, helping the Rays to the World Series in 2008. The Chicago Sun-Times reported the Cubs already have interviewed Hickey.
Less than a week after Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein insisted that any coach Maddon wanted would be on his staff in 2018, Bosio got the boot.
There was no press release or announcement. Bosio himself leaked word of his dismissal to USA Today, and the club confirmed it Monday, even as it prepared for its interview with Hickey.
Bosio pitched 11 seasons in the major leagues, tossing a no-hitter for the Seattle Mariners in 1993. He broke into the majors as a pitching coach in 2003 for Lou Piniella in Tampa Bay and also worked for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Maddon inherited Bosio, though, who was first hired by the Cubs in 2012 by then-manager Dale Sveum and retained by Rick Renteria. Still, he gets credit for the development of Jake Arrieta, taking him from a sub-.500 pitcher in Baltimore to a 22-game winning NL Cy Young winner in two seasons.
The Cubs’ 3.95 ERA was fourth-best in the National League in 2017.
The Carlyle High School graduate earned a free-agent contract with the Cardinals as an undrafted rookie out of Kaskaskia College in 1989. He turned that opportunity into a a four-year big-league career with St. Louis, the Montreal Expos and the Texas Rangers.
He called it quits in 2000 after two seasons with Class AAA Memphis in the Cardinals’ system and began coaching with the organization almost immediately. The 2017 season was his fifth in Class AAA.
Eversgerd helped lead the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League championship this past season. He also was widely credited for his work with pitchers Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, John Brebbia and others, who were promoted from Memphis to help the Cardinals make a late run toward a playoff berth.
Eversgerd has coached the likes of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales, Alex Reyes, Shelby Miller, Tyler Lyons, Sam Tuivailala, Seth Maness and many others.
He’s the top internal candidate to replace Lilliquist and could, at a minimum, be promoted to St. Louis as the bullpen coach.
One of the newest members of the Cardinals Hall of Fame, Carpenter won 95 games in St. Louis, including 10 in the postseason. He’s tip-toed into an informal coaching role with the club, but has been slow to warm up to a full-time role.
While fans and some media are encouraging at least an interview, the 42-year-old Carpenter, for now, doesn’t seem to be a willing candidate for the team’s vacancy.
Yes, that Cal Eldred.
He spent 14 seasons in the big leagues, including nine years with the Brewers. The Cardinals acquired him as a bullpen arm in 2003. Eldred lasted three seasons in St. Louis, where he picked up the only nine saves of his career and finished with a 12-6 record with a 3.41 ERA.
He retired as a special assistant to Mozeliak, traveling the organization’s minor-league system.
There has been nothing that has directly connected the popular San Francisco Giants employee to the Cardinals, other than his sudden removal as pitching coach to a front-office hand over the weekend.
Righetti had been leading the Giants’ staff since 2000, helping the team win four National League championships and three World Series.