Rick Kranitz cultivated his reputation as a pitching coach the past two seasons by nurturing the young arms on the Florida Marlins' staff. He placed as much importance on learning about their personalities as he did their tendencies on the mound, got the most out of them and became a hot commodity when he resigned last month.
Kranitz will be given the same opportunities with the Orioles, whose appeal over at least two other teams enabled them to hire him yesterday as Leo Mazzone's replacement.
Terms weren't disclosed, but Kranitz is believed to have signed a one-year contract, keeping him in line with manager Dave Trembley and the other coaches.
"I've talked to Dave about a few of these guys and absolutely I'm looking forward to working with the younger players," Kranitz said. "I haven't really gotten into the videotape yet, but that's the first thing, looking at the backgrounds of kids, looking at their mechanics before I go any further. I know in this day and age, young pitching is extremely valuable and they have to learn at the big league level."
Kranitz, 49, was in demand this offseason. He interviewed in Seattle for the Mariners' vacant pitching coach job and received an offer to join manager Dusty Baker's new Cincinnati Reds staff in some capacity. He chose instead to be reunited with Trembley, team president Andy MacPhail and bullpen coach Alan Dunn, who worked with him in the Chicago Cubs organization.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be on board. I know our styles work real good together," Kranitz said during a conference call with reporters. "I had a few calls, absolutely. When I talked to Dave a few days ago, it was such a comfortable feeling for me. I know we're going to be able to improve in Baltimore with this pitching staff.
"I wanted a nice working relationship, and this seemed to be the perfect fit for me. I feel like, in a sense, I'm coming home."
Kranitz, who spent 22 seasons with the Cubs as a coach or instructor, resigned from the Marlins in September after rejecting a $5,000 raise. He was believed to be the lowest-paid pitching coach in the majors, quite a contrast to the high-profile Mazzone, who was fired last week with a year remaining on his contract.
"What he brings to us is a level of expertise in mechanics, the ability to adapt to different styles of pitching and a real good communicator, which is something I think is going to be real important because I'd expect that we would basically have a very young pitching staff," Trembley said.
In 2006, Kranitz was named Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year after four rookies on the Marlins' staff each won 10 games. Their rotation that year posted a 4.22 ERA, third-lowest in the National League. The 2007 bullpen had a 4.02 ERA that ranked as the third-best mark in team history.
"I have nothing but praise for Kranny," said Cleveland Indians closer Joe Borowski, who thrived under Kranitz with Florida and Chicago. "He knows different ways to look at pitchers to help them. It's not just, `Everybody has to throw this certain way.' He can identify if you're doing something wrong. He'll sit with you, he'll watch bullpens. We'll watch video together to see if we can correct it.
"He was the bullpen coach in Chicago when I was there, and that benefited me, too, because last year, I was struggling a little bit, and he was able to remember how I was throwing when I was throwing real well. We fixed that in three days. He helped me out a lot and I think he'll do really well."
The Orioles still need a first base coach and bench coach. They have expressed serious interest in former outfielder B.J. Surhoff for the first base position.
In other news, the Orioles have sought permission to interview Chicago White Sox director of player development Alan Regier for an untitled position under MacPhail, according to a baseball source. Regier, who joined the White Sox in 2006, was the Chicago Cubs' minor league field coordinator in 1998 and 1999 while MacPhail was club president.
MacPhail said he will bring in at least one front office member this offseason, but citing tampering rules, he would not confirm or deny any candidates. Other possibilities include Larry Corrigan, an assistant to the GM in Minnesota; Oneri Fleita, the Cubs' vice president of player personnel; Bill Harford, a Cubs scout who also has served as director of player development and farm director in the organization; and former Colorado Rockies GM Bob Gebhard.