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Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Pitching coach interviews to be intense

By Wallace Matthews
ESPNNewYork.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Candidates for the coveted position of next Yankees pitching coach would be well advised to study diligently, do their homework and pay close attention to the video presentation, because it will all be on the test.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman shed little light on what was discussed behind closed doors during the first eight-hour session of baseball's annual general managers meetings Tuesday evening, and offered scant new information on what players the Yankees would pursue either through trades or free agency this winter.

But he sent out a very clear message to the select group of men who will be interviewed as possible replacements for Dave Eiland: Be prepared.

"I look at it as an NFL-type set up,'' Cashman said. "The manager is like the head coach, and he has a hitting coach who is like his offensive coordinator and a pitching coach who is his defensive coordinator. I consider this to be at the same level, and finding the right pitching coach is vital to us.''

Consequently, Cashman has devised a process by which candidates fly up to New York, are given a specially culled videotape of Yankees pitchers to watch in the video room at Yankee Stadium, given a night to think about what they have seen and formulate solutions, and then present them in a rigorous Q&A session the following day.

"The process is the most important aspect,'' Cashman said. "It's designed to tell us everything. Who they are as people, what their pitching philosophies are, what their pitching program and plans are, how they utilize video, how they utilize information, how do they incorporate advance scouting in formulating how to attack hitters, and if they can see things that are obviously good or bad. There are certain things on the video that are set up that we are looking for them to pick up on.''

So far, Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey, who filled in during Eiland's monthlong leave of absence last June, and Gil Patterson, a former Yankees pitcher who is now a roving pitching instructor for the Oakland Athletics, have gone through the process, and later this week, Cashman intends to interview Scott Aldred, the pitching coach for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate in Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

There are other candidates on the list, none of whom Cashman agreed to name, although he did rule out Leo Mazzone, the architect of the outstanding Atlanta Braves staff of the 1990s, in an interview earlier this week.

"It's about six hours of prep work on the first day, and then the interview process is probably about another six hours,'' Cashman said. "We talk about a lot of different things. But the main segment is what they see in the specific video that I've assigned them.''

Cashman said none of the candidates would need more than a single interview due to the extensiveness of the process, and that he and manager Joe Girardi would make the final decision jointly.

"We're equals in this,'' Cashman said. "I wouldn't allow him to hire someone that I didn't want and I wouldn't hire someone if he didn't want it. It's a collaborative effort. We gravitate to the same things, typically. So we'll come up with the same guy, I'm sure, and the process is designed to help us get there.''

The position of pitching coach is particularly important for a staff saddled with a starter, A.J. Burnett, who has three more years left on his contract, at $16.5 million per year, but was almost completely useless to the Yankees over the second half of the year, and a reliever, Joba Chamberlain, whose effectiveness has steadily declined after a spectacular rookie debut in 2007.

Eiland was credited with straightening out, at least temporarily, Javier Vazquez last season, and Burnett's precipitous decline coincided precisely with Eiland leaving the team in June for undisclosed personal reasons. Eiland was dismissed by Cashman following the season for reasons the GM termed "personal'' and "private.''

The search for Eiland's successor is so important to Cashman that he will leave the GM meetings a day early, on Wednesday night, to continue interviewing candidates, beginning with Aldred, on Thursday.

"I have to make sure we get the right guy,'' he said.

That guy will have to be more than father, brother, uncle, friend, coach and psychologist, the words Eiland once used to describe his job.

He will also have to be a particularly perceptive movie critic, as well.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.