According to Jayson Stark, the Pittsburgh Pirates have given the Philadelphia Phillies permission to interview Jim Benedict for their open pitching coach position. Benedict is currently a special advisor to general manager Neal Huntington. Prior to his current role, he was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator. He still works with pitchers, but most of his work these days is with major leaguers.
One of the biggest feathers in his cap lately has been Charlie Morton. In 2011, Benedict worked with Morton on lowering his arm slot and overhauling his delivery, using Roy Halladay as a guide. The transformation revived Morton’s career. He had a good year in 2011, then had a down year in 2012 due to an elbow injury that eventually needed Tommy John surgery. The injury also made it hard for Morton to throw his sinker. He returned this year, with the sinker back to its 2011 effectiveness, and looked great.
Benedict has also played a role in the transformation of Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon. He also worked with Jeff Locke prior to the 2012 season, helping the lefty add more of a turn to his delivery, which ultimately improved his command and made it possible for him to become a major league pitcher. Benedict has worked with several top pitching prospects, including work with top prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. The focus with Taillon was reducing the drop in his delivery, in order to prevent the fastball from flattening out up in the zone. The drop is still there, and might always be there, but it has definitely been reduced from when Taillon entered the system. The focus with Cole was throwing his fastball on more of a downward angle, and adding more life to the pitch to make it harder to hit. The change was noticeable almost immediately to people who saw Cole in college then saw him in his first year with the Pirates.
I’ve talked today about the Pirates’ ability to turn around struggling pitchers. Benedict has played a key role in that, along with playing a key role in the development of the current pitching prospects in the system. He would definitely be deserving of the job in Philadelphia, although his loss would be a big blow to the Pirates. They still have a lot of quality pitching coaches in the system, but Benedict has several development success stories in recent years, and is definitely one of the top guys when it comes to working with pitchers.