Orioles name Kranitz pitching coach
Veteran instructor spent 22 years working in the Cubs' system
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles filled one of their few remaining high-profile coaching slots on Wednesday when they reached a deal with former Florida pitching coach Rick Kranitz. Kranitz, who spent the last two seasons with the Marlins, will be replacing veteran coach Leo Mazzone, with whom the Orioles severed ties last week.
"Leo was a good pitching coach, but I believe for what we're going to do and the direction were going, Rick Kranitz is the right guy for the Baltimore Orioles," said manager Dave Trembley, who was instrumental in the hiring. "What he brings to us is a level of expertise in mechanics [and] the ability to adapt to a whole lot of different styles of pitching. He's a real good communicator, which is something I think is going to be real important. We basically have a real young pitching staff."
Kranitz, who was named Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year in 2006, previously spent 22 years coaching in the Chicago Cubs organization. He has a common background with three men with whom he'll be working in Baltimore -- Trembley, bullpen coach Alan Dunn and Andy MacPhail, the team's president of baseball operations.
All three worked in Chicago for a substantial period of time, and Kranitz calls his new working conditions an "absolute perfect fit." He is intrigued by Baltimore's young rotation and excited to get to work.
"I know Andy and I know Dave. I know what they can do," Kranitz said, crediting Dunn later in the conversation. "I really feel like in a sense I'm returning home, even though I'm thousands of miles away from Phoenix. I didn't talk to Dave during the season, but once we started our conversations again, it was like we never stopped talking."
Trembley, who managed in Chicago's organization from 1994 to 2002, had previously stated that his staff would be filled by people he could pick. Dunn, who was hired in August, was the first piece of the staff's restructuring.
The Orioles have announced that hitting coach Terry Crowley will return next year, but there should be a new bench coach and first-base coach.
"My first priority was to fill the pitching coach slot. I thought that was key and most crucial," Trembley said of the team's prompt and efficient hiring process. "Mr. MacPhail has been tremendous with me. He's allowed me to give him names I'm interested in, and he'll either say 'Yes' or 'No' to me. He hasn't said 'No' yet. The next two slots we have, we'll fill with the best available guys that we can. I'll get input from Mr. MacPhail and we'll go from there."
Kranitz was offered a chance to remain in Florida in his previous capacity, but he elected to pursue this opportunity. He began his coaching career in 1984 with the Cubs' rookie-level affiliate in Pikeville and steadily moved through the farm system. He has also managed for one season and served as a Minor League pitching coordinator.
The Florida job was his first full-time Major League stint as a pitching coach, and he got it because of another former Cub -- ex-Marlins manager Joe Girardi, who was dismissed after the 2006 season. Kranitz considered staying with the Marlins for another season and would have liked more time to make up his mind, but ultimately, he thought that he made the right choice.
"It was a very tough decision for me because I had a lot of great relationships over there," he said. "I had a great young pitching staff, [but] I just felt like I wanted to see what other opportunities were out there for me. It was a very hard decision. Let's just leave it at that."
The Marlins thrived under Kranitz in 2006, posting the fifth-best ERA (4.37) in the National League. Four rookies won at least 10 games for Florida that season, which was a first in big-league history. Those starters stumbled this season, but Kranitz led the team's relief staff to a 4.02 ERA, the third-best mark in franchise history.
Kranitz doesn't know too much about Baltimore's pitching depth but is excited to work with Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Jeremy Guthrie. He also said that he didn't see them pitch last season -- unless you count Spring Training, when he was quite clearly preoccupied with making sure his own pitchers were prepared for the season.
"I've talked to Dave about a few of these guys. Absolutely, I'm looking forward to working with the young guys. We had a whole host of them in Florida," he said. "You really have to get to know the individual you're working with.
"Communication to me is essential. It's not easy to pitch in the big leagues, and it's not easy to pitch in the division we're in. What I bring is, I know, a good work ethic. I will be a tireless worker. I believe in preparation."
Trembley said that those two factors -- communication and preparation -- were among the reasons he considered Kranitz the perfect fit. Kranitz said that he won't work to a specific philosophy as much as he'll tailor his tutelage to each pitcher's strength, and he said that he's always thought a pitching coach should serve as the manager's "right-hand man."
"I'm just absolutely thrilled," he said. "I know our styles work real good together. I'm just very anxious to get started."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.