Two years ago, Rick Kranitz was a little-known baseball lifer getting his first big break with the Florida Marlins. Today he's the hottest pitching coach commodity in baseball - and he is on the Orioles' short list to replace Leo Mazzone, who was fired yesterday.
Kranitz did not return phone calls, but a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed last night that Kranitz, 49, has been contacted by the Orioles to gauge his interest in the opening.
The source said Kranitz seemed intrigued about the possibility of reconnecting with Orioles manager Dave Trembley and president Andy MacPhail. Before joining the Marlins in 2006, Kranitz spent 22 years in the Chicago Cubs organization as a coach, manager and coordinator.
During that time he worked with and gained "a mutual respect" with Trembley and MacPhail, the source said. In 2006, Kranitz was named pitching coach in Florida for Marlins rookie manager Joe Girardi, who earlier this year turned down a chance to manage the Orioles.
There, Kranitz led a staff of mostly rookies to the National League's fifth-best ERA and was named Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year in 2006.
While Girardi left Florida, Kranitz stayed this season, but he was offered only a $5,000 raise - from his already league-low $110,000 salary for a pitching coach - if he would return in 2008.
Instead, he became a free agent. He interviewed with the Seattle Mariners this week and the Pittsburgh Pirates also have interest, the source said.
"I am sure by the time 2008 starts he'll be a pitching coach somewhere," MacPhail said. "He's a high-quality guy."