As a 22-year-old hotshot in the Kansas City Royals’ system seven years ago, Mike Montgomery said he wasn’t the easiest guy to mentor.

But a 30-year-old sidearm specialist clinging to his plodding career treated Montgomery well and left a favorable impression.

That former teammate is now his Chicago Cubs pitching coach: Tommy Hottovy.

“Sometimes you can get ragged on a lot, especially when you’ve been pitching in the minors,” Montgomery said. “But he was always nice to me and he was smart. That’s the one thing that jumped out.”

The wisdom Hottovy gained persevering through five organizations in 11 pro seasons bolsters his knowledge of analytics. Hottovy pitched for the Portland Sea Dogs in parts of six seasons, from 2006 to 2011, compiling a 10-18 record and 4.81 ERA in 72 appearances. He was used as a starter until needing Tommy John surgery in 2008. In 2011, he retooled his delivery to throw sidearm.

“It doesn’t surprise me that someone as bright as Tommy is now a pitching coach,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a technology-based game right now. We had Ian Kennedy throwing on the side the other day, and we had four cameras and one box in front of the plate that was rating his spin speed. You need more people to understand how to take that information and use it productively.

“Tommy is definitely that.”

But in the case of Hottovy, 37, there’s more than just understanding spin rates and data points.

“His sidearm delivery was different than the norm, but you still have to know how to break down everyone’s mechanics – sidearm, three-quarters, over-the-top, lefty, righty, everybody,” Yost said of Hottovy, who had a 4.05 ERA in 17 appearances with the Red Sox and Royals, the extent of his major league career.

“Tommy has studied the game to the point where he’s going to be a really, really good pitching coach.”

After stints with the Red Sox and Royals, his baseball education continued the next two seasons in the Texas and Toronto organizations. The Cubs signed Hottovy to a minor league deal in 2013, but in April 2014 he suffered a career-ending shoulder injury in spring training.

“Just being able to pick the brain of a bunch of different guys and getting an opportunity to be in some different organizations gave me a broader scope of what goes on in the major leagues, instead of being in one organization for a long time,” said Hottovy.

Soon after his career, Hottovy, a finance major at Wichita State, yearned to stay in baseball. So he took an online course from Boston University titled “Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics.”

“It’s a great course,” Hottovy said. “I recommend any baseball fan to take the course. It takes you behind the scenes and helps bridge a gap.”

The Cubs soon hired him in their advance scouting department as their run prevention coordinator.

After Jim Hickey resigned following last season, Hottovy moved up to become pitching coach.

“How about that?” Montgomery said. “It’s really cool. But to me, nothing has changed. I’m still dealing with him in the same way I have the last couple years. He’s the pitching coach so the title is different. He’s going to be in the dugout. But I think it’s all good stuff.”

One of the most noticeable additions at spring training this year are monitors at each end of the bullpen mounds. They measure velocity, spin rate, and horizontal and vertical breaks. That information gets tracked to a tablet via Wi-Fi and can be assessed by the pitcher between each pitch.

In previous years, bullpen sessions were videotaped with a small camera through a screen.

“When you have little cameras behind the catcher or you’re reliant on what a coach tells you, it’s fine, it reassures you,” Hottovy said. “But then when you see it with your own eyes, you’re able to make the adjustment and make sure you were doing what you want to do. Then it helps solidify that feeling.”

“Pitchers are consistently looking at spin axis and spin rates,” General Manager Jed Hoyer said. “They’re willing to dig in on the technology. It’s a new generation of players with that technology.”

But there’s also the human element of coaching.

Montgomery is expected to be a hybrid starter/reliever for the third straight year.

“I know where (Montgomery) has been and what he’s gone through, so it adds context to the conversation and trust when I take something to him,” Hottovy said. “He doesn’t have to second-guess it. We can have a healthy argument about it. But we know we’re on the same page and moving on.”

Hottovy’s talents were too good for the Cubs to ignore when they looked for a pitching coach.

“I think we always kind of viewed him as a rising star,” Hoyer said. “We thought he definitely was going to be an excellent pitching coach. As we got into the winter and started talking about it, no doubt that timetable was being sped up. Teams were going to be younger but different. And people were asking permission (to talk to Hottovy).

“We were thinking we know this guy is a star right here, and I think sometimes guys are thinking: ‘You want to finish that development.’ This guy is awesome. This is our guy. He’s been awesome so far in camp.”

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