Phils' pitching coach is manager's right-hand man

Rich Dubee talks with starting pitcher Cole Hamels during spring training.The pitching coach is Charlie Manuel's most trusted aide.
Rich Dubee talks with starting pitcher Cole Hamels during spring training.The pitching coach is Charlie Manuel's most trusted aide.
Posted: April 04, 2010

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Phillies pitching coach. Spring training coordinator. Charlie Manuel's most trusted confidant. Media point person regarding the pitching staff. Rich Dubee's job is uncommonly varied and prominent, but Manuel would not have it any other way.

"Rich Dubee is a big part of what we do here," the Phils' manager said. "I lean on Dubes more than people even realize."

Manuel is a former hitting coach and remains consumed with the offensive side of the game. So when the Phils hired him to manage before the 2005 season, he stressed the importance of a strong pitching coach. He and Dubee, 51, had known one another for more than 20 years and had developed a healthy working relationship in the Phils' minor-league system. Since then, that chemistry has only improved.

If the Phils continue their current run long enough to become an all-time National League franchise, the Manuel/Dubee relationship could rank with other memorable manager/pitching coach pairings, such as the Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda and Ron Perranoski, the Yankees' Joe Torre and Mel Stottlemyre, and the Athletics'/Cardinals' Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.

While Manuel's persona is genial and rarely explosive, Dubee's coaching style is defined by bluntly expressed opinions. That developed over time, as he forged a long career as a minor-league coach.

In the early 1980s, after six years as a mediocre minor-league pitcher in the Kansas City Royals' system, Dubee volunteered to coach first base and work with younger pitchers on the days between his starts (back then, many minor-league teams did not employ a full coaching staff).

In 1982, he ended his playing career and accepted a job as pitching coach at double-A Jacksonville. Dubee became the Florida Marlins' minor-league pitching coordinator for three seasons in the mid-1990s and was their major-league pitching coach from 1998 to 2001.

"Over time, you become more confident in what you do, and confident in yourself," Dubee said.

On many spring training mornings in the clubhouse at Bright House Field, the Phillies' pitching coach can be seen marching through the room, telling players where to be and when. According to Phils pitchers, he is the same way in the bullpen and during mound visits: loud, clear, and firm.

"He is certainly a character," one starter said, shaking his head and chuckling. The orders Dubee barks in the Bright House locker room, though, often have nothing to do with his job as pitching coach. In Clearwater, he is responsible for coordinating all spring training activities.

It is rare for a pitching coach to take on that role, which often falls to the bench coach. Former bench coach Jimy Williams ran the Phillies' camp before he was replaced by Pete Mackanin after the 2008 season. But Manuel has entrusted the job to Dubee.

In that position, Dubee organizes the many details of camp, such as what drills to practice on which days, and where and when pitchers throw their bullpen sessions and hitters take batting practice.

The workload eases a bit when the exhibition games start in March, and Dubee can refocus on his pitchers - and discuss them. Dubee is largely responsible for fielding media inquiries about the pitching staff. This is possible only because of the closeness between the men and Manuel's absolute trust that Dubee speaks for him.

"Charlie and our media people wanted me to become more involved," Dubee said. "I don't need to be in the forefront, but it helps Charlie. I have a pretty good read on him by now."

This spring, Dubee's most important project was helping Cole Hamels overcome a disappointing 2009 season. The job was both physical and psychological. Hamels needed to add a cutter to his repertoire of fastball and change-up, and Dubee worked with the lefthander on honing that pitch, as well as tinkering with a sinker that he might also use during the regular season.

Hamels also needed regular reminders to relax, take himself less seriously, and respond better to adverse situations during games. Over the last year, Dubee has paid close attention to Hamels' body language and offered clear feedback when he did not like what he saw.

Dubee used the same strategy in helping righthander Kyle Kendrick, who was sent to triple-A last spring after irritating Dubee with his body language during a bad inning. Before Kendrick walked from the major- league locker room to the minor- league Carpenter Complex last March, he heard from Dubee that if he ever wanted to pitch in the big leagues again, he would have to improve his attitude and pitches.

Like Hamels, Kendrick listened and appears poised for a better 2010. He pitched well enough to earn the fifth-starter's job but was beaten out by Jamie Moyer. A day later, Joe Blanton strained a muscle in his left side and will be out three to six weeks, moving Kendrick back into the rotation as the fifth starter.

A less obvious project last season for Dubee was Blanton, whose April earned-run average was 8.41. Though Blanton is not outwardly emotional, Dubee believed that the stoic righthander was falling victim to frustration, and digging a deeper hole for himself during games. He spoke with Blanton about that - bluntly, as always - and the pitcher proceeded to dominate for much of the rest of the summer.

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