Pitching coach Harkey, D-backs part ways

Pitching coach Harkey, D-backs part ways

PHOENIX -- Along with improving their starting rotation this winter the D-backs will also be looking for a new pitching coach, as they dismissed Mike Harkey on Monday while retaining the rest of manager Chip Hale's staff.

Harkey joined the D-backs in 2014, and in his two years in the position was handed pitching staffs that were short on experience. Under Harkey this season, the D-backs finished ninth in the league in ERA (4.04), 11th in quality starts (69), 10th in WHIP (1.33) and 10th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.43).

"It's the most difficult thing I've ever been through in this position," said Hale, who just completed his first year as a big league manager. "He's a great guy, great heart, helped me a lot in different things and it's just when one part of your team struggles a little bit, a lot of times you have to make changes. We felt like a new voice in that spot was needed. It's difficult. I told him it's the hardest thing I've had to do, because I've never been in this position. You feel awful, but I know he's going to land on his feet. He's a good coach, and he'll be good."

Bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is highly thought of by the organization and could be viewed as the front-runner to replace Harkey. Stottlemyre, the son of longtime Major League pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Sr., was the D-backs pitching coach in 2009-10. He was reassigned following the 2010 season and rejoined the big league staff in 2014.

D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said that a report that the team had already decided on Stottlemyre was incorrect, but that he would be one of the candidates interviewed.

The D-backs expect to interview internal and external candidates for the post.

"It was really a tough decision," La Russa said of the decision to dismiss Harkey. "It's not a question of what Mike didn't do -- I think he's a qualified pitching coach. It's just when we looked at the direction that we want to go from here, we thought there was a better fit. We're not going to get specific, because there's a lot of implications and people take things out of context."

Hitting coach Turner Ward, bench coach Glenn Sherlock, first-base coach Dave McKay, assistant hitting coach Mark Grace, Stottlemyre, third-base coach Andy Green and coach/interpreter Ariel Prieto will return in 2016.

D-backs general manager Dave Stewart said the Padres had called to ask for permission to talk to Green about their managerial opening.

Stewart and La Russa both said they felt that Triple-A manager Phil Nevin deserved to get a big league opportunity, but as of yet they've not been asked for permission to interview him by another club.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.