Tim Belcher talks about his Kansas City days, the 1988 World Series with the Dodgers and Zack Greinke
Tim Belcher, a Royal from 1996 to 1998, is now the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians. Around the Horn caught up with the two-time Royals Pitcher of the Year (1996 and 1997) before Wednesday’s game at Kauffman Stadium.
ATH: What do you remember about your time in Kansas City?
Belcher: I enjoyed my time here. There was never a time that I didn’t enjoy coming to this ballpark. I like what they’ve done with it. The changes are nice and fan-friendly. I enjoyed living here, it’s an easy town to travel in and out of…overall, Kansas City had a lot of positives.
ATH: Is this the first time you’ve been here since the renovations?
Belcher: Yeah. I think the last time I was here was in 2000 with the Angels.
ATH: Did you have a favorite area of Kansas City?
Belcher: We lived out in Leawood. It was a great area, they were just building up the Sprint complex when we lived here. I haven’t been back to see it for several years, it would be interesting to see how it developed.
ATH: 1988 was your second year in the Majors. You started Game One of the World Series for the Dodgers against the Oakland Athletics. Some might remember that Jose Canseco hit a grand slam off of you, but more remember the Kirk Gibson home run off of Dennis Eckersley to win the game. Where were you when that happened?
Belcher: I was in the clubhouse when Gibson hit the home run. It was probably one of the worst games I ever pitched on one of the biggest stages I ever pitched on. But it also was the most enjoyable game I’ve ever been a part of because of the way it ended.
ATH: A few days later, on your birthday, you’re pitching in Game Four…you picked up the win over Dave Stewart in Oakland.
Belcher: Yep, on my 27th birthday. I don’t remember a lot about that game. I pitched well but I remember more of the Game One home run and Game Five. Orel (Hershiser) pitched a complete game in Game Five and when the last out was made, we all ran on the field.
ATH: Speaking of Orel Hershiser, he set a Major League record that year with 59.0 consecutive scoreless innings. Zack Greinke had a stretch in late 2008 and early 2009 where he didn’t allow a run. What are your impressions of Zack?
Belcher: I love watching him pitch. I think he’s a great pitcher. He’s obviously got really good stuff but I like his approach to pitching. I did a lot of advance scouting in our division the last few years and I had the chance to see him quite a bit. I admired him from afar. When things get tougher in the late innings, he throws harder and uses more fastballs. He pitches harder in and harder up, which I really like. It’s kind of a unique mentality in today’s game for guys to pitch like that. He just rears back and the tougher things get, the harder he throws. He’s pretty good. He had a special year last year.
Belcher: I did a little bit of everything. I was on the field for Spring Training, mostly in big league camp, then I’d go around to our minor league affiliates from High-A up. I spent more time with the Double-A and Triple-A teams. I’d spend time in Cleveland and go to the Winter Meetings with the front office. I did some special assignment scouting for trades and also worked with our fall league and instructional league teams. It was a great way to gain experience.
ATH: What was it about this opportunity that enticed you (being the pitching coach)? While the other job involved quite a bit of travel, it seems that this schedule would be a little more stringent.
Belcher: Yeah my schedule is different now than in my previous job. It’s a lot more time away from home. When Mark (Shapiro, Cleveland’s General Manager) asked me to consider this job, I thought about the travel, but it’s like any job, you just listen to your body. After I met Manny (Acta, Cleveland’s new manager) and we talked about the makeup of the coaching staff, the stomach started churning a little bit. I started getting excited about the opportunity and decided to do it.
ATH: You grew up about halfway between Cincinnati and Cleveland?
Belcher: Closer to Cleveland. That’s what made it easier to make the leap. I’ve had other opportunities and inquiries to become a pitching coach. This is a lot easier geographically for my family. I’m literally an hour-and-a-half from Cleveland. It’s a little too far to drive every day, but I keep an apartment in Cleveland and get home on off days.
ATH: Were you an Indians fan growing up?
(Sandy Alomar, Jr., first base coach, also in the room, interjects with a comment.)
Belcher: (Laughing) Yeah, they weren’t good until Sandy was there.
ATH: Talk about the staff you’re working with this year.
Belcher: It’s a great staff, great makeup. I’ve really enjoyed working for Manny…he’s young, energetic, a positive guy. We’ve put together a staff that has experience, guys like Tim Tolman (bench coach) and Steve Smith (third base coach), guys with long-standing relationships with Cleveland like Sandy. He was a popular player there. Scott Radinsky (bullpen coach), Jon Nunnally (hitting coach and former Royals teammate) and Ruben Niebla (staff assistant) all coached in our minor league system. David Wallace (staff assistant) came through our minor league system as a player. It has been an easy transition for me.