ARLINGTON -- Two days removed from the end of their first 100-loss season in almost 50 years, the Rangers are already making changes to their coaching staff.
The most notable moves are that bench coach Don Wakamatsu and hitting coach Luis Ortiz will not return to the club in 2022.
Wakamatsu was the Rangers' bench coach from 2003-06 and was also the club’s third-base coach in ‘07 under Ron Washington. He returned as bench coach under manager Jeff Banister in ‘18 and was retained in the position when Chris Woodward took over managerial duties in ‘19.
Woodward on Wednesday praised Wakamatsu for all his contributions to the organization and noted it wouldn’t be easy to find a suitable replacement. Wakamatsu’s successor will have to first fit the culture of the Rangers, while also working in a way that makes the ship run smoothly, Woodward said.
“It’s probably somebody that can relay the message to the players, staff and be my outlet,” Woodward said. “Obviously, the in-game stuff, too. Just somebody that I can trust and rely on every day to discuss the right direction -- I don't have eyes and ears everywhere -- and push the message every day.”
Ortiz started his coaching career with the Rangers' Class A Short-Season affiliate Spokane before becoming a roving hitting coordinator from 2009-11, and later the assistant hitting coordinator in ‘12. Ortiz joined Woodward’s staff in '19 as they both came over from the Dodgers organization.
“My needs as a manager are a little different from the first year,” Woodward said. “I can't thank them enough. Like I said [with Wakamatsu] for the mentorship that he gave me. I got a long way to go to obviously get this organization in the right direction. I can't thank them enough. You look at what we've been able to do offensively ... I felt like we could have been a little bit better. Luis gave it everything he had. We didn't get anywhere from a lack of effort.”
It’s almost no shock that the Rangers will make changes at any level, considering the stage of the rebuild, but it was hard to place blame on any one coach considering the experience of the Rangers players this season.
Texas used a club-record 26 rookies in 2021, good for second-most in the American League and fourth-most in MLB. Woodward said the changes were moreso about bringing in new voices than a complete and total overhaul on the offensive processes.
The Rangers were last in MLB in OPS (.670) and OBP (.294), 29th in batting average (.232) and 28th in slugging (.375).
The status of assistant hitting coach Callix Crabbe and run-production coordinator Alex Burg will be determined by the new hitting coach. Both have permission to speak with other clubs in the meantime.
“[Ortiz, Crabbe and Burg] gave everything they had every single day with the players,” Woodward said. “Our players are in a better place. But I feel like we just need to go in a new direction. So it is a really difficult decision, I don't take it lightly. I'm excited about the change, but at the same time, it really hurts to have to.”
When it comes to replacing Ortiz, Woodward said that overall expectations have not changed, but there’s a specific overlay of how he wants to see the players approach each at-bat.
“I'd like to see him come in and get every one of our guys ... reach every single one of our guys from our best hitter to our worst hitter," Woodward said. "I think that's really important. Not saying that wasn't done [with Ortiz], but can be done a little bit better and reach more guys.”
The following coaches will return to the Rangers' staff in 2022, but roles are not determined and may be shuffled around: Co-pitching coaches Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara, third-base coach Tony Beasley, first-base coach/field coordinator Corey Ragsdale, catching coach Bobby Wilson and run-prevention coordinator Brett Hayes.