Hawkins handed high marks
Pitching coach's efforts praised by Rangers' skipper, GM
ANAHEIM -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said Friday that pitching coach Andy Hawkins has done "a great job" since taking over for Mark Connor at the beginning of August.General manager Jon Daniels described himself as being a "big Andy Hawkins fan." The Rangers have not announced any decisions regarding their coaching staff for next year, but Hawkins certainly seems to have strong support from the two important people who will make that decision in the coming days. "He's done as well as you can expect pulling this thing together considering the situation he walked into," Washington said. "He's very prepared, he cares about these guys and he works hard." Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti left Aug. 1, with the Rangers placing last in the American League in pitching with a 5.27 ERA. Hawkins was promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma to be the pitching coach, and Jim Colborn was taken away from his job as director of Pacific Rim scouting to be the bullpen coach. Hawkins was hired because he has worked well with the Rangers' top young pitching prospects during his 6 1/2 seasons as a pitching instructor in the farm system. That's his strongest asset. The Rangers weighed that against the need for a pitching coach with more Major League experience. "I think Hawk has a way of relating to pitchers with various backgrounds and what he stresses to each of them," Daniels said. "All through the system, pitchers have been productive when they've been with him. He's an asset to the organization in any capacity." Washington and Daniels will discuss the coaching staff situation in the next few days, and then make final decisions as soon as the season is over. Some changes will be made. Colborn is expected to return to his more vital role in Pacific Rim scouting. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is the only coach under contract for next year. Dugout coach Art Howe, third-base coach Matt Walbeck and first-base coach Gary Pettis are signed through only this season. The Rangers would like to also upgrade their defense, and there is strong sentiment to hire former Marlins infield coach Perry Hill in some capacity. He worked in that job for the Rangers, Tigers, Expos and Marlins, and he has an impressive track record in working with infielders. Daniels said the Rangers will wait until after the season before addressing their coaching situation. "We have three games left here," Daniels said. "We want to keep the focus in the field." Hawkins hasn't been told he's returning, but he is going about his job under the assumption that he will be the Rangers' pitching coach in 2009. "I can't go about it any other way," Hawkins said. "But I'd love to try it from the start, take it in Spring Training and go with a team that I've had a hand in picking. I'd love to start with a clean slate." Hawkins has already talked to the pitchers about next season. He wants them to be more diligent in their offseason workouts, and he warned them that next Spring Training could be more physically taxing than they've experienced before. Rangers president Nolan Ryan wants an increased emphasis on pitchers' conditioning and increasing their workloads as far as innings and pitch counts. Rangers starters have thrown the fewest innings in the Major Leagues this season, and it's worn down the club's bullpen. The Rangers have also put 15 pitchers on the disabled list this season at the Major League level. Hawkins said he wants to stress arm strength in Spring Training. That means more long toss -- playing catch from 100 feet or more -- and more live batting practice before the start of exhibition games. That used to be a staple when Ryan was with the Rangers. Pitchers would throw batting practice to their own hitters for 15-30 minutes as part of their seasonal preparation. That's slowly been done away with, but Ryan and Hawkins want it brought back. Hawkins will also increase the emphasis on pitchers fielding their position. Rangers pitchers had made 20 errors this season entering Friday, tying them with the Orioles for the most in the Major Leagues. "It's going to be different next spring," Hawkins said. "It's going to be a lot more physical spring: more running, more [pitcher's fielding practice], more individual work, more live batting practice sessions. "They've got to be ready. They've been told, but they seem all for it." Hawkins just needs the word that he's still the pitching coach.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.