(Photo: Nicholas Badders/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils hired former major league player and minor league coach Mike Cather as the program’s new pitching coach on Tuesday, the program announced in a press release.
Cather, 46, has been a minor league pitching coach for four different MLB organizations since 2006. Most recently, he served as the Miami Marlins minor league pitching coordinator in 2016. Prior to his coaching career, Cather played professional baseball for 10 years, including three in the MLB for the Atlanta Braves (1997-99).
“After an extensive and diligent national search, we’ve found a pitching coach whose credentials match the unique requirements of ASU Baseball,” head coach Tracy Smith said in the announcement. “We wanted a candidate who not only understood the rigors of college baseball, but someone who also had experience and knowledge in the professional ranks.”
The hiring of Cather ends a long search by Smith to find a new coach. After relieving former pitching coach Brandon Higelin in December 2016, Smith said that he would take over the pitching coach’s responsibilities until he found a replacement.
Smith held that role through the entirety of the 2017 season. The Sun Devils went 23-32, posting their first losing record since 1985. As a whole, ASU’s pitching unit struggled, ranking second-to-last in the Pac-12 with a 5.53 ERA.
Among the most important tasks for Cather will be player development. The Sun Devils 2017 recruiting class ranks eighth nationally according to Perfect Game. The group includes a handful of new pitchers like Boyd Vander Kooi, Drake Davis and Colby Davis.
Cather has a thorough résumé of developing young pitchers at the professional level, working with All-Stars Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.
“Player development has always been my first love,” Cather said. I love teaching and have a passion for helping. My driving force is to see the light bulb turn on in a young man’s head when things click.”
Smith also praised Cather’s record of development, saying he can “provide insight and development to their careers that very few collegiate coaches can provide.
Growth from its pitching staff would help the program restore it’s long reputation of providing good prospects to the pro leagues. ASU had only one player, left-handed pitcher Connor Higgins, selected in the 2017 MLB draft, the fewest since 1970. Meanwhile, 12 former Devils made MLB opening day rosters in 2017, the most of any school in the nation.
“Arizona State is traditionally an exceptional baseball institution and there’s a different chemistry and drive to the players that come here,” Cather said. “For me, it makes a lot of a sense to come to a place where I can provide my insight from the professional side and help these players achieve those goals of competing at the next level.”
Cather will have plenty of time to get acquainted with his new job while the Devils prepare for what they hope will be a rebound season in the spring of 2018.