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Chris Hook takes the reins as Brewers’ pitching coach: ‘It’s going to make everybody better’

Chris Hook

PHOENIX -- A "Hook" is making a difference for the Milwaukee Brewers heading into the 2019 season -- new pitching coach Chris Hook, that is.

"The pitching coach in spring training is loaded. You know, you go from managing a 13-man staff to, I think, you know, 32. So it's a little different, and the schedule is ever changing with 32," said Craig Counsell, manager.

While preparing for the 2019 season, the pitchers in camp are getting used to a new voice, sort of.

"Luckily, Hooky's been in the organization for quite a long time -- at least since I've been here," said Josh Hader, pitcher.

Chris Hook

"Hooky" took the reins from Derek Johnson, who left for the Cincinnati Reds. While he's the new pitching coach, he's very familiar with the staff.

Craig Counsell

"He's spent time with a lot of these players and pitchers -- significant time," said Counsell.

For 11 years, he's been with the Milwaukee Brewers, mainly as a minor league pitching coach and then roving pitching coordinator in 2018.

"I had the pleasure of working with him in Double-A and moving up, and then him being the coordinator," said Hader.

"There really is no transition phase for me because I've known Hooky since Low-A, you know? I had him as a pitching coach in Low-A in 2011, and I've had him in Double-A. I've had him for multiple seasons, so I'm excited for him," said Jimmy Nelson, pitcher.

"I think he knows everybody. I actually got him as a pitching coach when I played in Venezuela in 2011 or '12. It was a long time ago, but I had him for a little bit and I know him," said Jhoulys Chacin, pitcher.

While it's been a smooth transition from Johnson to Hook, there have been some noticeable changes in their approach.

"Everybody's teaching style is different," said Counsell.

"They both have their ways, obviously, of getting to you, but I think Hooky's is very simple. Whatever the easiest way to get to you, he tries to find and go that way," said Jacob Barnes, pitcher.

The relationship building isn't limited to the pitchers for hook. He also has to learn to communicate with Counsell.

"It develops with putting some new processes in place. Communicating on that. The next step is we move to games and the communication that starts to happen in games. The season's a whole different animal because it's just different. I think in the season, we start getting into game planning and, obviously, the usage changes 100 percent of how we run pitchers in and out of games. So those are probably the three steps that we've got to get comfortable with," said Counsell.

That comfort level also has to extend to the catchers.

"It's a two-way street. The only way we're going to get better and we understand is by asking questions and understanding the fact that we are asking questions for the better and not for the worse," said Yasmani Grandal.

Then there are the fine details of the craft, which is heavily informed by analytics, something newcomer Josh Tomlin is really finding a benefit from.

Josh Tomlin

"I think that`s where this organization separates itself, is, the coaches are willing to teach you about the information, to show you how to better utilize it to get better, and that, to me, is game changing for a staff of arms that are already really good," said Tomlin.

"It's going to make everybody in here better. So far he's doing well and I'm happy for him getting this opportunity," said Nelson.

So playing "Hooky" is exactly what the Brewers pitchers will be doing in 2019.

Hook is working with Steve Karsay, new bullpen coach during spring training. The Brewers also have a new hitting coach in Andy Haines.

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