Chris Bosio, the Cubs pitching coach, joined Bruce Levine and Jordan Bernfield during Saturday’s Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) to talk about Jake Arrieta winning the Cy Young Award and his relationship with one of the best pitchers in the game.
Jordan Bernfield did not allow the interview to end without asking about Jeff Samardzija. And Bosio did not hold back about the possibly of him returning to the Cubs.
“I’d love to see Jeff Samardzija in a Cubs uniform. I don’t know if it’s possible or not. I know, I really believe 100 percent that Jeff Samardzija can see himself in a Cubs uniform pitching in that environment.”
Chris Bosio has a reputation of being brutally honest with his players and it’s always educational when he talks about pitching. Bosio’s timeline is a little off when as he discussed the Jake Arrieta trade with the Orioles, but his passion for pitching and the Chicago Cubs is always right on track.
On the ascension of Jake Arrieta from the trade with the Orioles
“Well, I remember when [Scott] Feldman’s name was coming up in trade talk. At that time, Scott Feldman and Paul Maholm both were pitching very well. And actually, Maholm, I believe at that time had an eight-game winning streak going. And I heard Feldman’s name was coming up. I asked Theo [Epstein] for who? They said for this kid named Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Do you know anything about [Jake] Arrieta? And I said, ‘Yes. I do. I remember seeing him when I was with Cincinnati.’ I believe he was in A-ball at the time, Low-A ball and he’s come over and pitch three innings against us and punched out eight guys. I immediately wrote him up because I’d never seen a young pitcher perform like he did. What I mean by perform was how he was pitching. The way he was pitching, using both sides of the plate with velocity. I call it with anger, with violence and just dominated us. We had a very, very good, at that time Double-A Cincinnati club full of prospects with [Jay] Bruce and [Joey] Votto and [Chris] Valaika. I mean it was endless. It was a lot of the guys you see on that big league club were on the club that we had with Cincinnati. So, I’d seen him before. When we made the trade I saw some early video of him because we were going to send him to Iowa to get acclimated and get him going. And he was just really having a tough time duplicating pitches. He was all over the place. He was probably pressing and trying to impress. Velocity wise it was still pretty good. I felt like there could have been more in there because he was having such obvious timing issues because of command issues. I said you know what, I can talk about this on the phone until I’m blue in the face but until I get him in my hands I can’t do much. So we decided to give him another two starts and once we got him up to Chicago we started the process, the get to know process. Give him a couple of sides to keep doing what he’s doing, just to let him acclimated and breath and just be himself. We started tweaking stuff and he said it in his interview after he won the Cy Young Award, it’s something that we always talk about within our staff is fixing, tweaking, perfecting. How can we get this thing to a point where we are going to be comfortable on every pitch? Whether it’s the windup or the stretch, or it’s a long-toss program or it’s a bullpen. There are a lot of different things to work on within that five day schedule. We started working on day one from pitch one just from the mentality side of it. Working on, what do you see? Where are you trying to throw the ball? I remember Jake one time telling me, ‘Bos we are playing catch. What are you talking about?’ Well, this is what I’m talking about. Major League pitchers waste so many reps. I call it bullshit throwing. Where they’re playing catch and they have no idea where the ball is going. And it’s not just Major Leaguers. Anybody who has ever picked up a baseball has done it. We try to get that focus point on the playing catch part. Pick up a body part. Throw it to a body part. Find the shape you want. If you don’t like the shape you want, fix the shape on the next pitch. Fix the grip. Fix the stride. Do something, just don’t throw the same pitch the same way you just threw the last one because if you did then you’re doing the same thing you did before you got here. It’s all about the quick fix, the next pitch and that started the process and got him thinking. And that’s really where our relationship took off.”
On Jake Arrieta’s confidence and his belief in his ability to dominate … Was he as confident then as he is now or did that develop as he started to have more big league success?
“There is a lot of comradery in any sport, in any team. Jake and I had a very candid conversation about challenging himself to be the best in our locker room. Not just the best in baseball, but you’ve got to try to be the best in here to push your teammates and that’s where the whole be a leader not a follower. I think it’s only appropriate listening to our guys walk-up songs, Jake’s song that he’s literally made famous is that song, it’s called ‘Lean on Me.’ And that’s Jake. I’m not surprised him and his wife picked that song because he wanted that responsibility on his shoulders, on his back, by the way our conversations were going. I want him to be a bad ass walking around. I want him to think that all the time. It just can’t be a light switch. It doesn’t work that way. You can be professional. You can be a great husband. You can be a great father. You can be a great friend but you can still walk around with a chip on your shoulder knowing that you’re one of the best. And that was we tried to do with Jake and quite frankly with everybody else. I’ve done it with Woody [Travis Wood]. I’ve done it with [Jeff] Samardzija when he was here. I’ve done it with [Matt] Garza when he was here. I’ve done it with all of our guys trying to get the best out of these guys because I know they are better than what they’re doing right now. I still really believe the same way in Jake. I think there is more in there, which if you look at the season, the legendary season, I mean how far out there am I to say there is more in there for a guy that just went 22-6 with a 1.7 [ERA] and did things that probably no one will ever do again after the All-Star break? I believe in him. He believes in himself which is the biggest battle a lot of times when you deal with these guys.”
On the use of Sports Psychologists, the added support system and positive reinforcement in the clubhouse … Jake Arrieta uses them, how do you look at Sport Psychologists and their impact on athletes?
“I think when done properly it can be huge, it can be a HUGE advantage. I thought we hid it pretty good. Ken Ravizza is our Sports Psychologist and Darnell McDonald goes around as well, covered the Major and minor league clubs, where Ken is our Major League liaison. Ken is an experienced guy. I’ve known Ken going all the way back to 1981 when I enrolled in a Junior College after I got drafted out of High School. He was our Sports Psychologist. Guy’s got a lot of experience. The one thing that he brings is the one thing that we don’t have. He’s been there. He’s been there with winners. He’s been there with losers. He’s been with the great guys. He’s been with guys that failed and a lot of these guys that never experience all of the things that Ken has experienced. So he’s got stuff to offer. And I think that’s what Jake is pointing to. There are a lot of hills and peaks and valleys that you go through in your career and in life. Anytime you’ve got a guy with experience around you, it doesn’t have to be necessarily a Ken Ravizza with 40 years of experience in baseball, but when you’ve got people that are older that have experienced life, those can be great teachers and to have the Sports Psychologist side of it that he can implement anything from baseball and into your life, a lot of these guys don’t even realize that we’re life coaching as well as baseball coaches. And that’s what we’ve not had in the last couple of years in Chicago and Ken did a great job with the staff and Joe [Maddon] bringing Ken in. The guys really grasping on to it. I mean, is it for everybody? No. Is there a time and place for it? Yes. Have we perfected it? No. Is there a perfect solution? Is there a perfect plan for it? No. I don’t know what that would be. I don’t even … I can’t even put myself in that position to tell you what the perfect plan is because I haven’t seen enough work. All I know is that it worked this year. It worked well. The guys trusted the system. The guys that didn’t want it kind of shied away from it but the guys that utilized it had some pretty good years.”
On Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs potential interest in bringing him back … How much would he like to see Samardzija return and what was it about his relationship with Samardzija that allowed him to flourish?
“Boy, that’s a … I think I’ve been asked that probably 20 times in the last four days. [Laughs] Jeff [Samardzija], our personalities are similar. He’s a winner. He’s a hard working guy. He’s a grinder. He’s a no-nonsense professional. I think that’s where our personalities hit it off. He knows what I’m all about. I know what he’s about. He knows when I know he’s gone too far or vice versa. I can push Jeff. And Jeff with that football mentality, I think that’s where you build relationships, you find that common denominator and that’s one that Jeff and I had a lot of common ground on, playing football. We were able to reach each other, communicate very easily. I’d love to see Jeff Samardzija in a Cubs uniform. I don’t know if it’s possible or not. This guy is a showman. The years that we had, I mean the reason the Cubs are in the position we are at is because of guys like Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and Feldman and Maholm and Garza and Dempster. These guys went out there and all of them really pitched well and put us into position to get players. I know, I really believe 100 percent that Jeff Samardzija can see himself in a Cubs uniform pitching in that environment because he’s one of the guys that built everything that you see late in that season because our starting shortstop, Addison Russell is a pretty special player and also the outfielder that we got for them as well, he’s a good young player. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with this one. I’m sure Jeff can pretty much go wherever he wants. The decision is going to be definitely his. I know a lot of people who would love to see this guy in a Cubs uniform pitching on that … Wrigley Field and for the Cubs for the next couple of years.”