The Royals will hire Brian Sweeney as their new pitching coach, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Sweeney has served as bullpen coach with the Cleveland Guardians since 2019, working with a team that has finished top four in ERA in the AL in three of his four seasons there.
Sweeney is originally from the New York area who went undrafted after pitching at Mercy College. Nonetheless, after a stint in the independent leagues, he rose through the Mariners organization and eventually spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues with Seattle and San Diego, as well as a three-year stint in Japan, and he participated for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2013.
After his playing days, Sweeney spent three years in the Phillies organization in minor league development. In 2018 he was hired to join Cleveland’s big league coaching staff, and he became bullpen coach the next year. There, he worked under pitching coach Carl Willis, and in tandem with Ruben Niebla, who is now the Padres pitching coach. He has been praised for “his ability to connect with players and his embrace of analytics” and is credited with helping young Guardians pitchers.
The Indians dismissed Scott Atchison in part because they didn’t want to risk losing Brian Sweeney and Ruben Niebla, who are both big on analytics and were key in the success of the young pitchers this year.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) October 31, 2019
So, Sweeney is now bullpen coach and Niebla is assistant pitching coach
He has experience applying advanced data and integrating it into the team game plan.
His responsibilities evolved more in 2019, when he assisted with pitching drills and studied the metrics behind pitchers’ deliveries. Sweeney developed a knack for applying advanced data and video, tools he wished he had at his disposal during his career. Chernoff described Sweeney as “a big-time learner,” which helps him relate to players who are searching for some revelation with their mechanics or approach.
“I had to figure it out through feel, through repetitions,” he said. “I would have been all in (on data and video), because I wasn’t that good. I needed the help. I may have played for 18 years, but a lot of it was hard.”
Sweeney spent part of the pandemic working as a volunteer firefighter, in honor of his father, but was also credited with keeping pitchers prepared during that summer.
Sweeney spent months sending players video and monitoring the volume of their workloads while tracking what they were doing on and off the mound all in preparation to hit the ground running once camp reopened.
“We know where they’re at at this point, so we were able to just keep progressing,” he said. “When we got here, we actually knew what to expect and it’s all because with the guys, all of the hard work they put in over those three months.”
Owner John Sherman, who was once minority owner of the Guardians franchise, has talked about wanting to emulate that organization in terms of pitching development. So it is not a surprise to see the Royals hire someone like Sweeney, who has had a hand in their success.
Sweeney will work under new manager Matt Quatraro who is still finalizing his coaching staff. Paul Hoover will serve as bench coach with Damon Hollins as first base coach. Alec Zumwalt and Keoni De Renne will serve as hitting coaches. The Royals also announced the hiring of José Alguacil as infield coach. Alguacil comes over from the Nationals organization where he spent last year as a big league coach, after several years in the Giants organization as a minor league manager and big league coach.