CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ruben Niebla, one of the secret ingredients to the success Indians’ pitchers have enjoyed over the last several years, could be leaving the organization.
Niebla, 46, is a finalist to be the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers. The Rangers, who fired manager Jeff Bannister on Sept. 21, hired Chris Woodward as their new manager on Nov. 2. On Wednesday, they announced the hiring of five coaches. The pitching coach and bullpen coach are the only vacancies yet to be filled.
For the last six seasons, Niebla has been the Indians’ minor league pitching coordinator. He was the Tribe’s interim pitching coach in 2012 after Scott Radinsky was fired and just completed his 18th season with the organization.
Niebla has played a key role in the careers of several Tribe pitchers as they worked their way through the minor-league system. He helped two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber rework his mechanics after he came to Cleveland in a trade from San Diego in 2010. Besides looking under Kluber’s hood, he suggested that he might want to try throwing a two-seam fastball. It has become Kluber’s money pitch.
When the Indians acquired Mike Clevinger from the Angels in 2014, he was coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Niebla helped him recreate himself.
“”When I came over here, I wasn’t some 98-mph throwing 19-year-old like I was when I got drafted,” said Clevinger, after throwing six scoreless innings against the Tigers to clinch the Tribe’s third straight AL Central title on Sept. 15. “I was older, throwing slower, my mechanics were out of whack coming off Tommy John surgery.
“And they invested the time. I mean, countless of hours of me, Ruben and other guys down there in Arizona on the backfields without a ball. Just figuring things out. It’s paying dividends now, but they do that throughout the organization. I think it’s huge and I can tell you from one organization to others, it’s not like that everywhere. That’s why I really appreciate everything everyone does behind the doors here.”
Clevinger just finished a 13-8 season in which he posted a 3.02 ERA and reached 200 innings and 200 strikeouts (207) for the first time in his career.
It’s hard to name a pitcher on the big-league staff that Niebla hasn’t helped. Niebla was a pitching coach at various minor league levels for the Indians from 2001 until being named interim big-league pitching coach in 2012. He’s been the minor league pitching coordinator since 2013.
Niebla pitched professionally for six seasons in the minors with Montreal, the Dodgers and in some independent leagues. He has a degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education from Azusa Pacific University, where he played college ball.