Bob Melvin

Giants balancing new-school, traditional approach to coaching philosophies

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With a new manager comes a completely new coaching staff.

Well, sort of.

After introducing Bob Melvin as the team's new manager earlier this offseason, the Giants hired a handful of new assistant coaches while retaining a few holdovers from former manager Gabe Kapler's staff. And that mix might work to their benefit.

Hitting coach Justin Viele now will share duties with co-hitting coach and former Giants outfielder Pat Burrell. In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday at Giants Fan Fest, Burrell discussed his offseason as the team's new hitting coach and how closely he's worked with Viele.

"One of the first things that was important is to form relationships with the existing hitting coaches that were there, JV and [assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero]," Burrell told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I feel like I've been on the phone with JV like 10 hours a week over the last couple months. It's been great, we think the same, we come at it from different areas, but it's been a great experience."

The 33-year-old Viele was the Giants' hitting coach for four seasons and played a role in San Francisco's record-setting 107-win 2021 season in which the offense blasted 241 home runs.

Burrell believes his partnership with Viele can offer the Giants a perfect balance of new-school and traditional hitting philosophies.

"I think it's going to be a perfect ham and egg type deal," Burrell said. "He is so gifted with the mechanics of the swing and how the body works. A lot of what I offer is my experience through playing, some of the mental stuff of course, some of the preparation stuff as far as getting ready for the long haul here.

"Everything we've talked about, it's all about winning, it's all about getting these guys prepared on a nightly basis and doing it in the most efficient way."

While Melvin and the majority of his new staff offer a more traditional approach to the game than Kapler's, Burrell and other coaches remain open-minded about the benefits of new-school tactics when used appropriately. Burrell spoke candidly about the use of platoons and offered his perspective as a former player.

"It wasn't part of the generation I played in, so it's hard for me to say," Burrell explained. "If I had to go back as a player, I think it would have been very difficult for me personally to be in that kind of role, but the game has changed and there's a lot more going on now than there ever was.

"I think if you are in the position where you have a couple different platoons on the team, I think that's fine but I don't think it should be anywhere near the majority. But you got to do what you got to do, and ultimately those are Bob [Melvin's] calls."

One of the other notable hires to Melvin's staff is new pitching coach Bryan Price, who fills the role left by Andrew Bailey when he took the same job with the Boston Red Sox this offseason. 

Price already is hard at work helping Giants pitchers, including young left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison, who he has spent plenty of time with this offseason at the team's player development center at Papago Park in Phoenix, Ariz.

Veteran starting pitcher Alex Cobb, who is rehabbing from offseason hip surgery, has gotten to know his new pitching coach as he continues to work his way back to the mound and is impressed by Price's philosophy and approach to pitching.

"It's been great. The first conversation we had he just hammered down how much he expects us to be flawless in our fundamentals, our PFPs, our holding the running game," Cobb told NBC Sports Bay Area on Jan. 20. "There's so much information in baseball now. We have plenty of people in the organization who can talk to us about analytics and pitch design and scouting reports. It's really refreshing to hear somebody say 'We're going to take care of the fundamentals that World Series teams accomplish.'

"And he's taken the reigns on that, so that's just really nice to hear and just the philosophy of pitching and how he wants starters to work deep and have a more traditional bullpen and guys to know their roles. I think it's something a lot of guys are longing for. He's just got a great demeanor, he's just very calm in his words. His experience, he's seen it all, he's been a part of all of it. It's going to be really fun to get to know him better and work with him."

Price will work closely with assistant pitching coach J.P. Martinez and bullpen coach Garvin Alston in his new role with the Giants.

The game of baseball changes every year, and MLB teams have been wise to adjust with it. The Giants, under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, have been one of the more forward-thinking organizations in the league for the past five seasons. And while their new-school approach with tactics such as platoons and the use of openers has paid off at times, there is a hunger to embrace more traditional roles in the clubhouse and throughout the fanbase.

However, it will be important that the Giants don't overcorrect and let the game pass them by. With a balanced new coaching staff, it doesn't appear that will be the case.

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