WASHINGTON – As the pitching coach in Houston from 2004-06, Jim Hickey worked with veterans such as Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.
When he took over in Tampa Bay in 2007, the Chicago native dealt with young pitchers such as David Price, James Shields, and Scott Kazmir.
“I look back and how important it was for the Rays to get him when they did,” long-time Rays’ radio voice Andy Freed told Federal Baseball on Monday.
Hickey, a Chicago native who turned 59 exactly a week ago, will get a chance to work with a mix of veteran and young hurlers as the new pitching coach for the Nationals.
He was named to the role on Monday afternoon, just over two weeks after Paul Menhart was not retained.
“He is easy to talk to. He has that quality I love: he is not defensive at all. You can ask anything about anyone and he will give you a good answer,” Freed said.
In a Zoom call with reporters, Hickey noted that what works for Max Scherzer may not work for other pitchers like Austin Voth.
Scherzer leads a trio of veteran starters that also includes 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and lefty Patrick Corbin.
Trying to fill the back end of the rotation the past few years have been Voth and Erick Fedde.
Down in the minors, the Nationals have several pitchers who have been taken in the top five rounds the past few years who are in Florida with the Instructional League team this month.
“The chance to work with the people who are there now,” said Hickey, when asked Monday what appealed to him about the job.
“There is a very strong core and they are going to return a lot and that is what makes it attractive.”
Hickey was an all-American pitcher at the University of Texas Pan American. He spent the past two years in player development with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“My first MLB job was in 2004 and things were a lot different,” said Hickey, who adds there is more video and analytical information available now.
Hickey was the pitching coach for the Rays from 2007-17 during a time when Davey Martinez, the Washington manager, was a coach there.
“He and Davey clicked really well. This is not a surprise hire,” Freed said.
Hickey also worked under manager Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and with the Cubs in 2018.
Freed is a graduate of Mt. Hebron High in Howard County, Maryland and a 1994 graduate of Towson University. He has been part of Rays’ radio since 2005.
“I wish him all of the luck in the world,” Freed said of Hickey.
Shawn Camp, who went to Robinson High in Fairfax and George Mason University, pitched under Hickey with Tampa Bay in 2007. Camp is now the pitching coach at George Mason after a long pro career.
“Davey would help pitchers for how to stop the running game,” Camp told The Washington Times last year about Martinez. “He was around the ballpark; it was what Joe wanted. He let him be himself. That is one thing Joe does really well: there are certain times when guys have to fall in certain lanes as coaches.”