Kranitz Ready for Challenge, Mazzone talks
By Craig Heist
Orioles manager Dave Trembley managed in the Chicago Cubs organization from 1994 to 2002, so it came as no surprise last week when he announced that Rick Kranitz would replace Leo Mazzone as pitching coach.
Kranitz, who held the same position with the Florida Marlins until late in the year, previously spent 22 years coaching in the Cubs system. He has a background with Trembley, bullpen coach Alan Dunn and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.
“I have worked with Dave in the minor league system of the Chicago Cubs, and I have known Andy extremely well over with Chicago and also Alan Dunn, and I am thrilled to be on board,” Kranitz said. “I know our styles work very well together, and I am anxious to get started.”
Kranitz comes to the Orioles with impressive credentials, having been named Baseball America’s Major League Coach of the Year in 2006 with the Marlins when not just the team, but also the pitching staff, surprised everyone. Five pitchers finished with double-digit wins. Dontrelle Willis, Scott Olsen and Josh Johnson each won 12 games that season, while Ricky Nolasco won 11 and Anibal Sanchez posted a 10-3 record with a 2.83 ERA in 18 games. Joe Borowski notched 36 saves.
Kranitz will have his hands full with a young Orioles pitching staff riddled with injuries in 2007 and one that is expected to be very young when spring training begins in '08. His task will be to turn around a group that pitched to an ERA of 6.89 in September and finished with a 5.17 ERA, 13th in the American League.
“I am looking forward to working with the young players, and we had a whole host of them in Florida,” he said. “That’s my first thing is to look into the background of these kids and look at their mechanics before I go any further. I am going to rely on Dave and also Alan Dunn, because he was there for about half a year. I am looking forward to it, because in this day and age, the young pitchers are extremely valuable, and a lot of times they have to learn at the big league level, and I am looking forward to getting in and teaching them how to pitch at this level.”
Kranitz did not accept the Marlins' offer to extend his contract and left in September. It wasn’t long until he found himself a hot commodity. He had interviewed for the pitching coach job in Seattle and was also a candidate in Pittsburgh but in the end decided on Baltimore.
“I had a few calls,” he said. “When I talked to Dave it was such a comfortable fit for me. I know Andy and Dave. I know the job they can do. I know what Andy has done in the past, having worked very close with him in Chicago. I felt very comfortable. I know we are going to be able to improve this pitching staff in Baltimore, and for me I wanted a nice working relationship, and this seemed to be the best fit for me. … When Baltimore and Andy called, I was so flattered because I really believe that he’s going to make this organization, and I want to be a part of it."
Trembley said it was a combination of many things that makes Kranitz the man to lead his staff into next season.
“What he brings to us is a level of expertise in mechanics,” Trembley said. “The ability to adapt to a whole lot of different styles of pitching, and he is a real good communicator, which is something I think is going to be very important because we are going to have a real young pitching staff.”
Mazzone coached six Cy Young Award winners in his 15-year tenure with the Atlanta Braves. He never had the talent in Baltimore that he had in Atlanta, although guys like Erik Bedard and Jeremy Guthrie swear by Mazzone, so that will be part of the adjustment period next year.
“Leo Mazzone not returning to the Orioles had nothing to do with whether Rick Kranitz was available or not,” Trembley said. “Rick’s attraction to me was the three things we talked about -- communication, preparation, and the third thing and the biggest thing that I have and Rick has and Alan Dunn and hopefully everyone on the team has, is trust. That has nothing to do with the relationship I had with Leo. Leo was a good pitching coach, but I believe for what we are going to do and the direction we are going, Rick Kranitz is the right guy for the Baltimore Orioles.”
Mazzone, who indicated on the final day of the regular season he wanted to be back with the Orioles, is now back in Georgia waiting for the next job to come along. He says he was surprised by the decision to let him go, but he understood it.
“If that’s the direction they wanted to go in, that’s fine,” Mazzone said. “I got great satisfaction out of Erik Bedard, Jeremy Guthrie, Adam Loewen, Chris Ray, and I thought one more year with that rotation being built would take us on through.
“I would have liked to see it through and finish the obligation I had to the Baltimore Orioles. The fans were great, and everyone treated me fine there, so I had no trouble there other than I won’t be able to see through the development. I was so proud of Bedard, Loewen and Guthrie that I thought it was something to build a championship around and finish it up.”
Mazzone said Sam Perlozzo’s dismissal in June did not change his feelings about wanting to stay with the Orioles.
“I just wanted to make it clear to the Orioles that when Sam was dismissed that had no effect on me wanting to stay with Baltimore for as long as they wanted me," Mazzone said. "My family is close by, and I got to see my father and my children more so it was a good situation for me personally. My real disappointment is not being able to sit there and watch the groundwork that was laid with certain young starting pitchers and see it through."
Mazzone says he did good work with staff in Baltimore. He enjoyed his time here and still has passion for the job, but he doesn’t know where that next job will be.
“Right now you just wait and see what happens and go from there, but the important thing is it was two good years in Baltimore with the people I met and the friends I made," he said.
Issue 2.43: October 25, 2007