CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs have fired longtime pitching coach Chris Bosio, an apparent casualty of the 2017 bullpen disaster, according to a report.
Bosio was the first pitching coach hired by Cubs president Theo Epstein in 2011, and served under managers Dale Sveum, Rick Renteria and Joe Maddon.
The firing was reported by USA Today. The Cubs did not return messages.
Bosio is the first coach on Maddon’s staff to be fired. Maddon lauded his coaches last week and said he expected them all to return, making the firing surprising.
"Rest assured Joe will have every coach back that he wants back," Epstein said Friday.
That suggests Maddon did not want Bosio back.
Bosio was instrumental in the team's rebuild, and is credited with fixing Jake Arrieta’s career and accelerating the plan, while also building up mid-level free agents Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel to bring back value in trades. Feldman was the key player in the deal that brought in Arrieta, while Hammel and Jeff Samardzija brought in Addison Russell.
But recurring bullpen issues and year-long control issues may have been the impetus for the dismissal. Epstein pointed out Friday the Cubs were last in the majors in unintentional walk rate.
"That's not acceptable," Epstein said. "None of us feel good about that. We managed to have the third-lowest bullpen ERA in the National League, but we did it in a way we're not comfortable with getting there."
Epstein said the Cubs bullpen "peaked in September, the last three weeks of the season," but "didn't deliver in October."
Epstein said it was "partly a player personnel thing," but also added every reliever's average walk rate went up.
"It could be a fluke," he said, but implied it was more than a coincidence. "Thirtieth this year, and 26th the year before? C'mon. We have to be a lot better than that."
The Cubs were seventh in the majors in pitching this year with a 3.95 ERA, after ranking first last year with a 3.19 ERA.
Their walks per nine innings rose from 3.05 in 2016 to 3.44 in ’17, mostly due to the relievers walk rate of 11.2 percent, worst in the majors.
The control issues negated the fact Cubs pitchers had the fourth-lowest opponents average (.236), meaning they collective have good stuff but couldn’t locate.
The firing could reunite Maddon with his former Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey. Epstein could also bring in the Nationals’ respected Mike Maddux, a former managerial candidate with the Cubs who could replace Dusty Baker in Washington.
John Farrell, the former Red Sox manager who is close to Epstein, would also be a good choice if he doesn’t get a managerial offer.