Bob McClure Wants Red Sox Pitchers to Challenge Him, Exude Zack Greinke-Like Stubbornness

by NESN Staff

May 3, 2012

Bob McClure Wants Red Sox Pitchers to Challenge Him, Exude Zack Greinke-Like StubbornnessBOSTON ?? Bob McClure doesn’t particularly care for listeners.

Sure, the Red Sox pitching coach would prefer pitchers to pay attention to his recommendations. But each time he critiques a hurler’s mechanics, McClure yearns for them to challenge him.

Sometimes, even ignore him.

“I think anyone that’s really good is pretty stubborn in their own ways,” McClure said. “The best pitchers I’ve had were the most stubborn ?? in a good way. Some of the worst pitchers I’ve had listened to every word you say. They try to use all the information and they don’t sift out what they can use and what they can’t use.”

This is McClure’s philosophy. And a month into his first season as Boston’s pitching coach, the 60-year-old former Royals pitching coach is still adapting to his new set of arms — a pitching staff that currently sports a 5.45 ERA.

As the third different Red Sox pitching coach in as many seasons, McClure is the latest addition to the revolving door. But McClure’s loose approach has proven effective in this situation.

Zack Greinke‘s evolution to an ace is the chief example. Before McClure joined Kansas City in 2006, the carousel of pitching coaches hardened the pitcher. In fact, Greinke was hell-bent on following his own beliefs.

“The first three things [Greinke] told me was No. 1 ?? I don’t listen to pitching coaches, No. 2 ?? I’ll never throw a two-seamer and No. 3 ?? I’ll never throw a changeup,” McClure said. “By the end, he was kind of listening to his pitching coach, he did throw a two-seamer and he did throw changeups. It takes trust. It takes relationships.”

Through it all, McClure never demanded that Greinke change. He offered suggestions to the pitcher, who walked the fine line between listening and ignoring en route to winning the 2009 AL Cy Young award.

In Boston, Daniel Bard is gradually learning those mannerisms. With a 2-2 record and 3.72 ERA in his first year as a starter, the 26-year-old said he feels comfortable disregarding McClure’s instructions when it’s warranted.

“The biggest thing is he’s very direct,” Bard said. “If he sees something ?? whether it’s your pitch selection or whatever ?? he’ll say ‘Hey what do you think about this?’ If you’re responsive, open to the idea, he’ll help you through it. It’s not ‘Hey, you’re doing this wrong, here’s how to fix it, do it my way.’ It’s not like that all.”

The approach stems from McClure’s own experience in pro ball. Over the course of his 21-year career ?? with seven different teams ?? he was constantly forced to reinvent himself, making the transition from reliever to starter to relieving again.

Given McClure’s longevity and versatility, he’s quickly earned the respect of many of his pitchers, especially Clay Buchholz.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Buchholz said. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of guys in this day and age that can spend 20 years in the bigs. It’s definitely something to speak for [as a pitching coach].”

Along the way, McClure learned to challenge and ignore the instructions. He was introduced to that philosophy in Milwaukee from 1981 to 1985, when catcher Ted Simmons offered McClure recommendations on his pitching.

“I was pretty stubborn, too, but when Ted Simmons came over, I learned a lot from Ted,” McClure said. “It was against what I thought. Some of the things didn’t work — I tried them, I didn’t like them and it didn’t work. But a lot of things he said changed the way I looked at it, changed the way I pitched and helped me get a little better.”

Now, McClure hopes to impart a similar influence on the Red Sox’ pitching staff.

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