ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are going with a unique pitching coach combination next season with Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara sharing the duties, the club announced Monday.
Mathis was the Rangers' bullpen coach this past season, while Sagara was a special assistant and Triple-A pitching coach who worked this summer at the alternate training site.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said the pitching coach job has become big enough for two to share the responsibilities. Mathis and Sagara have a lot work in front of them in rebuilding the pitching staff.
Here's what they'll face:
Rotation woes: Lance Lynn (6-3. 3.32 ERA) was one of the top pitchers in the American League. Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.35) and Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.02) had their issues, but they are signed for next season. Getting Gibson and Lyles right are the top two projects for Mathis and the Rangers' pitching instructors before next season.
Care of Cody: Right-hander Kyle Cody made a nice Major League debut after missing two complete seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He had a 1.59 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, but just in eight games and 22 2/3 innings. The Rangers have to make a call on much they can use him next season after three years of limited or no use. Missteps could be costly.
Get ahead and out away: The Rangers threw first-pitch strikes 60.7 percent of the time this season, the sixth-best rate in the American League. But they had trouble putting hitters away.
Opponents hit .189 (with a .273 on-base percentage) off the Rangers with two strikes. Both were the highest allowed by a pitching staff in the AL. They allowed 30 home runs with two strikes, tied for the fourth most in the AL, and they had a combined 489 strikeouts, the fourth fewest.
Right now, it appears Hernández and Martin will stay in the bullpen, and Hearn will get an opportunity to start. But Hearn has also seen limited action the past two years and the Rangers may need to go slowly in pushing him into the rotation. Rookie left-handers Wes Benjamin and John King should get a chance to start next spring.
Crown jewels: Right-hander Cole Winn is the Rangers' No. 4 prospect and Hans Crouse is No. 6, per MLB Pipeline, but they weren’t able to pitch this season because the Minor Leagues were shut down. Winn had the luxury of pitching in alternate camp. So did Ricky Vanasco before he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Lost trio: Left-handers Kolby Allard, Brock Burke and Joe Palumbo have combined to pitch in 283 career Minor League games, including 226 starts. Their combined record is 80-65 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 9.11 strikeouts per nine innings. Going into Spring Training, the Rangers believed all three were on the brink of establishing themselves as Major League pitchers.
Then Burke underwent season-ending shoulder surgery and Palumbo suffered through a bad case of ulcerative colitis that limited him to just two games. Allard was healthy but was 0-6 with an 11.75 ERA in 11 games. Putting these three back together will be a huge challenge for any pitching coach.
Next wave of recovery: The Rangers suffered a crushing number of top pitching prospects who required Tommy John surgery in 2018-19 and they are still making their way back. The list includes right-handers Alex Speas, Owen White, Ryan Dease, Mason Englert and Seth Nordlin and left-hander Cole Ragans, the 2016 first-round pick who has undergone two such surgeries. There is a wealth of talent in that group if the Rangers can successfully navigate the final stages of their recovery.
Bullpen power: The Rangers have plenty of power arms to fill a bullpen. Some of the better ones were hurt this season, most notably closer José Leclerc. He will be coming back from a torn muscle in the back of right shoulder. Right-handers Demarcus Evans and Ian Gibaut can throw hard, but both of them need much refining. Right-hander Rafael Montero and left-hander Joely Rodríguez are the primary setup relievers, along with Hernández.