On Sunday, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Ruben Niebla is the Padres top choice to fill their pitching coach vacancy.
The Padres haven't picked their manager yet, but according to sources, they are locking in on Ruben Niebla to be their next pitching coach. He's been the assistant pitching coach with the Indians.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 24, 2021
The report comes as a shock to many.
The Padres general manager, A.J. Preller, has publicly stated that the new manager will have full say in who joins his coaching staff. Currently, there are no indications that the Padres are close to naming a new manager, so this is a clear deviation from Preller’s statement.
The Padres pitching coach job is an intriguing gig. They will start their job working with Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, and youngsters Ryan Weathers and MacKenzie Gore.
That can be the best rotation in the MLB, and there is a possibility of a great bullpen if done correctly this winter. Niebla certainly is capable of making that happen.
The hardest part of the job will be dealing with an assortment of injuries that plagued the Padres last season. Clevinger is coming off of his second Tommy John surgery. Lamet was shelved for most of 2021 while dealing with lingering forearm issues. Darvish and Paddack ended the season on the IL. The injuries and lack of innings from the rotation put a lot of strain on the bullpen. The relief core cracked under the pressure and had its own set of injuries at the end of the season.
Niebla has spent most of his coaching career working with pitchers in the Cleveland Indians/Guardians organization. He started earning roles as the pitching coach on various minor league teams. In 2012, he was named the interim pitching coach. While he didn’t stick at the job, he was moved back to the minors as the minor league pitching coordinator. After seven years in that role, Niebla was promoted to the Indians’ assistant pitching coach, a role he has served in since 2019.
Cleveland is known as one of the top pitching development organizations in all of baseball. In his time, Niebla saw Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, and many more pitchers develop into MLB All-Star caliber arms. One of Neibla’s calling card traits is his ability to develop a pitcher’s slider. Both Musgrove, Snell, and Austin Adams all use their slider about a quarter of the time or more.
A lot of Padre fans might be saying, “hold your horses. We heard the same thing about Larry Rothschild.” Rest assured, Niebla received praise for adapting his teaching style to fit the need of the player. Someone who previously worked with Niebla told Eno Harris at the Athletic, ” It’s rare to find someone that can relate to a diversity of players and pitching minds. His humbleness and curiosity drive the desire to continuously learn and apply new knowledge, but this does not take away from his ability to lead. Simply put, coaches want to work for him, and players want him to coach them.”
Stay tuned. The Padres could name a new coach reasonably soon.