Rick Kranitz

Phillies name Rick Kranitz pitching coach, make long-shot pitch to Shohei Ohtani

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Phillies name Rick Kranitz pitching coach, make long-shot pitch to Shohei Ohtani

Updated: 9:27 p.m.

The Phillies closed the work week with a flurry of moves on Friday.

The club officially named Rick Kranitz as pitching coach and announced the hiring of Chris Young as assistant pitching coach — as well as some front-office moves.

Also, as expected, the Phillies tendered contracts to all five of their arbitration-eligible players — infielders Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez, catcher Cameron Rupp and relief pitcher Luis Garcia.

Much of the focus in the baseball world Friday was on the international game as the ground rules for signing Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani were made official. The Phillies have made their interest in Ohtani known to the pitcher/slugger's representatives and they are ready to pay the $20 million release fee to his Japanese club.

Ohtani is beholden to international signing-bonus limits, so he will not be the subject of a bidding war. The Phillies have constructed a recruiting pitch to the 23-year-old player, trying to sell him on being a centerpiece talent on a growing team. But signing Ohtani remains a serious long shot for the rebuilding Phillies. The player is seeking a team that is ready to win now in markets where Japanese players have succeeded before. He would also like to get some at-bats, probably as a designated hitter, in addition to pitching. That points to the American League. The Yankees, Mariners, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs remain the most likely landing spots for Ohtani.

The hiring of Young, a former minor-league pitcher who finished his career with the Camden Riversharks in 2008 and most recently served as a scout with the Houston Astros, as assistant pitching coach leaves the Phillies with just two more openings on new manager Gabe Kapler's coaching staff — bench coach and first base coach. Multiple reports have the Phillies considering Rob Thomson, the former Yankees bench coach, for the same role in Philadelphia.

It is not surprising that Kranitz is the new pitching coach. He was bullpen coach in 2016 and assistant pitching coach in 2017. The team announced a month ago that it would retain him in some pitching-related role. Kranitz has 10 years experience as a major-league pitching coach with the Marlins, Brewers and Orioles.

The Phillies' 2018 coaching staff will have a heavy emphasis on pitching. Jim Gott, who pitched 14 seasons in the majors, was recently named bullpen coach.

Now that they've been tendered contracts, Franco, Galvis, Hernandez, Rupp and Garcia are considered signed players for 2018. They will have their salaries determined by an arbitration panel later this winter if they fail to come to agreement on a salary before then. It is still possible that any one of these players could be traded. It's no secret that the Phillies have a pair of young middle infielders on the way in J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery. Galvis and Hernandez are both very much available for trade and the Phillies have received offers, according to sources. However, none of the offers have been to the Phillies' liking.

While the Phillies remain open to dealing Galvis and Hernandez, they would be comfortable hanging on to both if they do not get the value they seek. The Phillies ended last season with four infielders — Franco, Galvis, Hernandez and Crawford — sharing time at three infield spots. It's not a perfect solution but something a progressive front office that has stressed versatility and giving its manager lineup options could employ for a while.

In other Phillies matters, reliever Jesen Therrien, who became a free agent in October, signed a two-year, minor-league contract with the Dodgers. Therrien is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for much of 2018.

Pitchers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel both passed unclaimed through waivers and were assigned outright to Triple A. Appel, the former No. 1 overall pick by Houston in 2013, has struggled as a starter in two seasons in the Phillies' system and sources say the club will look to transition him to the bullpen in spring training.

Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

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Gabe Kapler unveils 3 members of Phillies' coaching staff

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler unveiled the first three members of his coaching staff Friday.
 
Kapler stayed within the organization for a couple of important hires, retaining Rick Kranitz and naming Dusty Wathan third-base coach.

Kranitz's role is yet to be determined.
 
Kapler also hired John Mallee as hitting coach. Mallee (pronounced May-lee) most recently spent three seasons as the Cubs' hitting coach. Prior to that, he served as the hitting coach for the Astros (2013-14) and Marlins (2010-11). Mallee was actually drafted by the Phillies back in 1991.
 
Kranitz, 59, has previously been major-league pitching coach for the Marlins, Orioles and Brewers. He joined the Phillies' staff as bullpen coach before the 2016 season and served as the club's assistant pitching coach under Bob McClure last season.
 
It's no surprise that the Phillies kept Kranitz. His experience — 10 seasons as a big-league pitching coach — and familiarity with the organization's pitchers will be valuable to Kapler, a first-year manager who most recently served as the director of player development for the Dodgers.
 
Wathan's hiring is also not a surprise. The 44-year-old former catcher has managed in the Phillies' minor-league system for the past 10 seasons, has had an important hand in the development of many of the players projected to help the Phillies in coming seasons, and was a finalist for the job that went to Kapler. Had Wathan not been named to the big-league staff, he would have returned to manage the Triple A Lehigh Valley club in 2018. Wathan was the Eastern League manager of the year while leading the Double A Reading club in 2015 and 2016.
 
"Dusty was incredibly impressive in this process," general manager Matt Klentak said last week at the news conference to announce Kapler's hiring. "Obviously, the fact that he was a finalist would suggest that we thought a lot of him. ... We are really proud of everything he accomplished and the way he conducted himself in the interview process. We're really glad he's with the Phillies."
 
While initially disappointed to not get the manager's job, Wathan last week said he was eager to continue his work with the organization.
 
"I feel like this organization is on the cusp of big things," he said. "I feel like I've been a part of that and I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it."
 
Wathan's departure from the Triple A manager's post means the Phillies have an opening at that level.
 
Kapler and Klentak still have several more hires to make for the staff. At the news conference to announce his hiring last week, Kapler said he wanted to build a diverse coaching staff.
 
"I don't want seven people in the dugout who think just like me," he said. "I value somebody with a lot of veteran experience. I have a tremendous amount of value for someone who thinks more progressively. So I'd say diversity of thought, diversity of experience, that's a strong way to build a major-league coaching staff."

Phillies' coaching staff to become 'free agents' after season finale

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Phillies' coaching staff to become 'free agents' after season finale

Pete Mackanin will not manage the Phillies after Sunday's season finale, but he does have a future with the organization. He will become a front-office adviser next season.

His coaching staff does not have the same clarity.

General manager Matt Klentak told the team's coaches on Friday that they would become "free agents" after the season ended on Sunday.

"He thanked everybody and said everybody did a great job," bench coach Larry Bowa said. "He said whoever the [new] manager might be, we’re going to tell him about our staff and we think you did a good job and it’s going to be up to that manager to interview you. And he said, but if any of you guys want to make calls on Monday, you’re like free agents. And he thanked everybody."

In addition to Bowa, the staff includes pitching coach Bob McClure, assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz, bullpen coach John McLaren, first base coach Mickey Morandini, third base coach Juan Samuel and hitting coach Matt Stairs, who was interviewed by Klentak and hired last fall.

Bowa, Samuel and Morandini all have deep Phillies roots and were fan favorites during their playing days. They remain so now. Stairs also has Phillies roots. He hit one of the biggest home runs in club history in the 2008 National League Championship Series and connected well with players in his first season on the coaching staff.

It's not clear who will be back in 2018. Maybe some will. Maybe none will.

Bowa, 71, expressed a desire to return to the organization that he has been in for 33 of his 52 years in pro ball.

"My No.1 priority is to stay in this organization," Bowa said. "That’s all I’m going to say about that. That’s No. 1. And if I’m not, then I’ll look for other stuff. But right now, I want to stay in this organization.

"This is my home. This is where I grew up. People recognize me as a Phillie. I just think that, I’m still, age-wise, what, 71, but you guys see me work every day. I’m relentless when it comes to that. So if they have something in mind, I’m going sit down and talk with them and see where it goes."

Would Bowa consider a position off the field?

"You know, I don’t know right now if it’s on or off, as long as it involves the Phillies," said Bowa, who does have broadcasting experience. "I'll do anything. I want to stay in this organization. That's all."

Bowa was surprised that Mackanin was let go.

"Pete did a great job," Bowa said. "He took a really young team – and then we obviously got reinforcements, some good young players – and if you take a look at what he did in the second half, I thought he did a great job. But nothing in baseball – you see everything in baseball – when you’re in baseball a long time, you’re not shocked by anything. Baseball is baseball. That’s the way it is. He’s just a good guy."

Mackanin has always had a great sense of humor. He kept that even as he informed the team on Friday afternoon that he would manage his last game Sunday.

"When Pete was talking, they were pretty somber," Bowa said. "But Pete had a way of loosening them up. His last comment, he says, 'I want you guys to play hard like you have been. If you win the last three games they might want to change their mind.'"

Bowa laughed.

"Typical Pete," he said.

And, yes, the Phillies did win Friday night (see observations). They are 36-37 since the All-Star break with two games remaining.