Chattanooga's Rick Honeycutt expects he'll return to Dodgers for 14th season

Los Angeles pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, left, and manager Dave Roberts have helped the Dodgers make consecutive trips to the World Series.
Los Angeles pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, left, and manager Dave Roberts have helped the Dodgers make consecutive trips to the World Series.

Clayton Kershaw is returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it appears his only big-league pitching coach is returning, too.

Rick Honeycutt, the 64-year-old former Lakeview High School and University of Tennessee standout, wrapped up his 13th season with the Dodgers a week ago, when they succumbed to the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the World Series. It was the third year in which Honeycutt worked with manager Dave Roberts after working five seasons with Don Mattingly (2011-15), three with Joe Torre (2008-10) and two with Grady Little (2006-07).

Honeycutt returned to Chattanooga on Wednesday night and was thrilled to learn Friday that Kershaw had agreed to a reported three-year extension for $93 million. Kershaw went 9-5 this season with a 2.73 ERA and has a 153-69 record and a career ERA of 2.39 since his big-league promotion in 2008.

"I'm extremely happy they were able to work something out for him and for us," Honeycutt said. "I'm not sure he wanted to go anywhere else right now, and I know our organization and myself are extremely happy that he will remain a Dodger."

Now that Kershaw is locked down, what about Honeycutt?

"The Dodgers have been great, and this gives me a little better feeling, obviously," said Honeycutt, who was a guest of "Press Row" on Chattanooga's ESPN 105.1 FM. "They also gave (Hyun-Jin) Ryu a qualifying offer, so hopefully we'll have him, too. Every year, the travel gets tougher because I'm getting older. I have talked with Dave, but I haven't talked with the front office as of yet, but I'm sure we'll be talking soon. I'm probably going to work something out for at least one more year."

Los Angeles led the National League in team ERA with a 3.38, but this season was anything but smooth for Honeycutt's pitchers. The Dodgers began June with four of his starters - Kershaw (biceps tendinitis), Ryu (groin strain), Rich Hill (blister) and Kenta Maeda (hip) - on the disabled list.

The Dodgers also began June with a 26-30 record, hardly resembling the 2017 National League champs who soared to a 104-58 mark before losing the World Series in seven games to the Houston Astros.

"It was definitely frustrating to have all the injuries," Honeycutt said. "I've never had four of my starting pitchers out at one time, but I like to look at it as things happen for a reason, and that gave us the chance to have two young guys step up. Ross Stripling went from the bullpen to a starting position and made the All-Star team, and it allowed Walker Buehler to come up a little earlier than we had anticipated. He was super down the stretch.

"Watching young guys get the opportunity and take advantage of it also drives me. That gave me a lot of joy, and then we started getting our starters back and started playing better baseball."

After receiving his new deal Friday, Kershaw told reporters, "There have been a lot of people saying that I'm in decline, or I'm not going to be as good as I once was. I'm looking forward to proving a lot of people wrong with that."

Honeycutt already seems to be looking forward to that challenge as well.

"He had to make quite a few adjustments this year," Honeycutt said. "The velocity just wasn't there right from the start of spring training, and he had some shoulder things going on in addition to his back. He may never get back to 95 (mph), because he's logged a lot of innings in his career, but he's changed and will continue to learn.

"He's always worked on his changeup, and that's going to have to start coming into play, and the percentages of his curveball usage are going to have to increase. He still has the pitches, but the percentages may have to change to make him more effective."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.

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