Jim Benedict has turned down the Phillies.

First Pitch: The Best Thing That Happened to the Pirates Last Off-Season

The big focus this past off-season was on A.J. Burnett. The right-hander played a big role in the Pittsburgh rotation the previous two years, then after having his status up in the air for several months, he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. There was another person who the Phillies tried to sign away from the Pirates (not Marlon Byrd, who they did sign away), and that person’s importance to the Pirates was much bigger than Burnett or any other pitcher. This person turned down the Phillies and stayed with the Pirates. His name is Jim Benedict.

The Phillies interviewed Benedict for their open pitching coach position, and came away impressed. Eventually, he turned them down, and remained in Pittsburgh as a special assistant to the General Manager, with his most important role being the work he does with pitchers in both the majors and minors.

I was thinking about Benedict on Sunday after Vance Worley’s start. As Ryan Palencer reported earlier in the season, Worley spent the first month in extended Spring Training, working with Benedict to get his mechanics back on track. It’s still early, but based on everything we’ve seen in Triple-A and his start on Sunday, Worley might be “back”, and capable of putting up numbers similar to his 2011-12 seasons. That would be a huge steal for the Pirates, since they’d control him through the 2018 season, and got him for nothing.

If Benedict was in part responsible for Worley’s turnaround, then it wouldn’t be anything new. Ray Searage gets a ton of the credit for the success with reclamation projects, but Benedict is a big part of this as well. He’s had a hand in almost every pitcher’s development in the current rotation.

The biggest one was Charlie Morton, who worked with Benedict on overhauling his game, becoming the sinkerball pitcher he is right now. Morton still works with Benedict on further adjustments, adding new pitches and working on refining old pitches. The result this year is that Morton has the best numbers in the rotation, and is looking like a solid number three starter.

Jeff Locke was a guy struggling with his command, when Benedict worked with him on adding a turn to his delivery. Since that adjustment, Locke has made the jump to the majors, and while he’s struggled at times, he still looks like he has a future in a Major League rotation. That’s a big jump from before the adjustment.

Jim Benedict working with Gerrit Cole in instructs during the 2011 season.

Jim Benedict working with Gerrit Cole in instructs during the 2011 season.

Benedict has worked with reclamation projects like Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano, helping Ray Searage to make certain adjustments. Every time I watched Volquez in Spring Training, Benedict was right beside him, watching him and offering advice at the end of the bullpen session. After one session, Benedict yelled out “that was your best one yet”. It was at that point (also after seeing his curve and changeup) that I started thinking Volquez might work out.

Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon both were hard throwers who had fastballs that were too easy to hit. Benedict worked with both guys from day one, focusing on making their fastballs harder to hit. Cole has seen success with this approach in the majors so far. Taillon has also done a much better job of throwing at the knees.

Big name pitchers are always going to get the attention. When there’s a reclamation project, a big portion of the success will go to the player, as it should. The same goes for a prospect working out. But the guys who have a hand in all of this are invaluable to a small market team like the Pirates. Benedict has a hand in Charlie Morton’s overhaul, Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke reaching the majors, the reclamation projects of Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and others, and possibly the Vance Worley complete turnaround. When he decided to remain in Pittsburgh, that was the best thing to happen to the Pirates this past off-season. And that would have been true, no matter who they signed.

Links and Notes

2014 Draft

**2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker

**Pirates Sign 39th Overall Pick Connor Joe

**Pirates Sign Third Round Pick Jordan Luplow

**Pirates Sign 25th Round Pick, Shortstop Erik Forgione


**Prospect Watch: Josh Bell Stays Hot; Two Draft Picks Off to Good Starts

**Minor League Schedule: Sampson and Morris Look to Continue Strong Seasons

**Josh Bell Named FSL Player of the Week

**Top 10 Pitchers: Do A.J. Morris and Nick Kingham Have a Shot at Pittsburgh This Year?

**Top 10 Hitters: Could Josh Bell Be in Line For a Promotion Soon?

**Prospect Highlights: Alen Hanson Stays Hot, Matt Curry Goes Yard


**Andrew McCutchen Named NL Player of the Week

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Prospect Watch: Josh Bell Stays Hot; Two Draft Picks Off to Good Starts

Next Story »

Jordan Luplow Bonus Information and Where the Pirates Draft Stands Now

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Yeah, I remember that this off season and I never understood why the Pirates haven’t sweetened the pot enough for Benedict to keep him from even wanting to test the waters and interview with another club.

    I thought the Pirates would value Benedict more and realize how important it is to keep him with the organization, and would reward him enough to keep him contented. Can’t he be signed to a long term deal?

    • Lee Young

      Well, you know how the Bucs like to keep these kinds of deals quiet? :) :)

      Overall, I agree….I hope he is well compensated.

      • leowalter

        You can bet that if he turned down that position with the Phillies, the Pirates are paying him VERY well.

  • leadoff

    i could not agree more, too bad most of the media does not understand the value of a guy like Benedict, IMO, the scouts and development people is where I would put big salaries if I am a small market team, you have to be able to take players off the scrapheap and reinvent them and you have to be able to develop your higher end talent in the minors to be able to take over for guys like McCutchen when he leaves because there is no way the Pirates can pay his next salary and that goes for a few more guys the Pirates have in the majors. In baseball today even the high end salary paying teams lose top talent because then can’t pay them all, the difference between them and the Pirates is the Pirates will be able to replace their top major league talent if they keep guys like Benedict around.

    • piraddict

      Exactly, leadoff!

  • piraddict

    Great article, Tim!

  • bucsws2014

    I’m hoping Benedict has a bit of “understanding mom” in him to take care of Cumpton & Locke when both get sent down despite whatever they accomplish up here.

    Business is business. If Worley continues to pitch well, Bucs have no choice but to keep him in Pittsburgh.

    Btw, who is Benedict’s #2/likely successor?

Latest Analysis

  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    21 hours ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    2 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    3 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    5 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    6 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    7 days ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    2 weeks ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Third Base Mathisen Luplow Joe

    Who’s on Third? In the Pirates’ Farm System, It Could Be Anyone

    2 weeks ago

    If you have ever played third base in your life — professional, college, high school, slow pitch softball — then the Pittsburgh Pirates might be contacting you ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles