Texas nears decision on new pitching coach
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are expected to name a pitching coach by the end of the World Series, and indications are they will choose somebody from within the organization.
Familiarity with Texas' young pitching is expected to be crucial in the process. The Rangers have a vast array of talent they are trying to navigate through limited workloads, the loss of a Minor League season due to the pandemic and recoveries from major arm surgeries.
Jono Armold and Danny Clark are Texas' co-pitching coordinators in the Minor Leagues. Armold is highly regarded within the organization and was in charge of the Rangers' pitching this summer at the alternate training site. Right-hander Kyle Cody and left-handers Wes Benjamin and John King were among the pitchers who made significant progress during Summer Camp.
Bullpen coach Doug Mathis and longtime Minor League pitching coach Greg Hibbard both know what it is like to pitch in the big leagues. The Rangers have also considered veteran big league coaches, including Mike Butcher, who has been the pitching coach for the Rays, Angels and D-backs.
But Texas seems to need somebody who can jump right in and get its young pitchers through unusual and difficult circumstances.
“We’ve got a number of pitchers that have reached the big leagues, or who are on the verge of it or gotten some time in the big leagues, that have talent but have lacked consistency,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “Putting together individual plans for them, sitting down with them virtually in the offseason and making sure they are on board with that, know how to prepare this offseason so they know how to go into Spring Training hitting the ground running, that’s probably the biggest [mission].”
Every pitcher is different. Cody had a 1.59 ERA over 22 2/3 innings in eight games (five starts) after missing two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Rangers see him as a candidate for the rotation next year, but with a limited workload. He is not alone.
“You are always going to have that question, but it is doubled down when you have a young staff,” Daniels said. “Even more so when you are coming off a year when nobody has had a normal workload. I think we all have an idea how to approach it, but there is going to be some give-and-take and staying connected with the performance and medical staff and listening to the pitchers on how they are doing.”
Daniels said the onus will be on the front office to acquire enough pitching this offseason to keep from overloading Texas' young pitchers and forcing them to pitch an excessive number of innings before they are ready.
The Rangers are looking for a new pitching coach after electing not to bring back Julio Rangel. He served in that role the past two seasons and was given the difficult task of working with a pitching staff hit hard -- under pandemic circumstances -- by injuries and struggles, which led to highly inexperienced pitchers being moved up to the big leagues.
“I really enjoyed working with Julio,” Daniels said. “Hard-working guy, diligent. Very organized. As we looked at what we wanted to accomplish, we were looking for somebody who has a little bit different approach, as far as working with the group and coming up with the development programs.”
• Left-hander Cole Ragans is throwing the ball well in instructional league. He was the Rangers' first-round pick in the 2016 Draft who is trying to come back from two Tommy John surgeries.
• Another positive in the instructional league has been shortstop Chris Seise, the No. 29 overall pick in the 2017 Draft. He had both the 2018 and ’19 seasons cut short because of two shoulder surgeries -- one on each side -- and had nowhere to play this past season.
“Physically, he stands out on the diamond," Daniels said. "It's a big league body right now. And he's swung the bat very well.”
• Right-hander Hans Crouse, the Rangers' No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is absent from instructional league while dealing with personal issues. Daniels characterized it as a positive development.
• Left-hander Brock Burke, who is coming back from Spring Training shoulder surgery, is on a throwing program in the instructional league. Left-hander Joe Palumbo is recovering from ulcerative colitis, a condition that cut his season short, and he's working on a new diet to prevent further issues.
• Daniels said he expects to reach out to free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo at some point, but he added, “Where we are at, our first priority is identifying the players we believe have earned it and need opportunity to go out and prove themselves next year. To the degree we don’t have guys at those spots, we’ll consider both trades and free agents. I don’t think we’ll move quickly on the free-agent front.”