Cubs hitting coach looks to leverage ‘Swiss army knife' staff


Not only do the Cubs have yet another new hitting coach, but now a robust department on that side of David Ross' coaching staff.

Strength in numbers?

“I kind of look at it like a Swiss army knife,” new hitting coach Dustin Kelly said. “That’s kind of how I've described it to our guys. We're one unit, one little knife. But within that knife, there's a bunch of different tools that we have to use and we can pull from depending on the situation. 

“Whatever tool is needed, we have somebody on the staff that can help, that can basically bring something to the table in that situation.”

The Cubs revamped the hitting corner of Ross’ staff earlier this month, led by naming Kelly their primary hitting coach. It's the latest change at a position that has been a revolving door during the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer front office eras.

Kelly, the Cubs’ minor-league hitting coordinator the past two seasons, replaces Greg Brown, who held the position for just one season.

RELATED: Dustin Kelly gets turn on Cubs' wild hitting coach carousel

Assistant hitting coach Johnny Washington will return for his second season. He’s joined by Juan Cabreja, who was promoted to assistant hitting coach from staff assistant. Additionally, Jim Adduci was named assistant hitting coach, game-planning,

With each coach bringing something different to the table, Kelly envisions the group working in unison to get the most out of Cubs hitters. It’s something they’ve talked about already since his hiring.

“How do we utilize each member of our staff that's involved with the hitters, that has a presence with these hitters and identify what they're really good at," Kelly said. “And then be able to bring that to the table to create a group that services our hitters. 

“Our goal as the hitting coaches is to get our players prepared every single day with whatever they need. The staff that we built brings a little bit to the table. Everybody has their own specialty, and we're going to leverage each of those.”

Kelly previously was a minor-league hitting coach with the Dodgers (2018-20). In his last position with the Cubs, he worked closely with hitters in the farm system, some of whom have reached the majors or are getting close. 

Washington has a long coaching background across multiple organizations that includes stints as a primary hitting coach in the majors and minors. Cabreja has coached in the Cubs organization since 2004 and worked closely with players from Latin America. He's been on the big-league staff the last six seasons.

Adduci and Napoli bring unique perspectives as former players who had long professional careers. Adduci played 16 professional seasons across the majors and minors and overseas.

Napoli, who's entering his fourth season on the Cubs' staff, played 12 big-league seasons. And as first base coach, he has the front-side view of right-handed hitters those in the dugout do not.

“Our whole group is really seasoned in a bunch of different areas,” Kelly said. “We're going to leverage that as much as we can to help the players.”

Although Kelly is the primary hitting coach, he doesn’t view that seniority as meaning he has ultimate and final say over the other coaches.

“Maybe my message doesn't get across to one particular player, but J-Wash or someone else has the ability to put it in some terms that are maybe more simple,” Kelly said. “I think we all are going to check our egos at the door. 

“That’s a big thing that we've talked about. There's no ego here. We're the hitting department. We're here to help players and whatever needs to get done for that particular player that day, we're going to be able to do it as a group.”

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