The Rangers may be about to land their first significant pitching free agent of the winter.
According to multiple voices around the organization, veteran pitching coach Mike Maddux has emerged as the leading candidate for a significant role with the organization. He likely would function as pitching coach, but GM Chris Young recently said he hoped to build out a more well-rounded pitching department in which roles could be defined more non-traditionally.
Maddux, 61, has spent 20 seasons as a major league pitching coach and has gone to the postseason 10 times in the last 14 years. That included seven seasons with the Rangers from 2009-15, during which he made four postseason trips. He spent the last five seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach. He still makes his home in North Texas.
Maddux is considered an exceptional and detailed game-planner, almost obsessive over the use of video. He also is known for placing a hand on the shoulder of a pitcher during a mound visit, partly to settle him and perhaps partly to gauge tension.
The science of pitching instruction, however, has grown beyond just video and body language and its why Young said last month he expected to create a pitching department that involved biomechanics experts and data analysts as well. The Rangers are retaining Brendan Sagara, the 2022 “co-pitching coach” to help with pitch design. The Rangers could announce further additions to the coaching staff/pitching department.
All of that is helpful, but what Maddux and manager Bruce Bochy could really use are a couple of more starters. The Rangers have three in Jon Gray, Martín Pérez and Jake Odorizzi, but are also churning the free agent and trade markets. The club did meet with Japanese free agent Kodai Senga recently, a person familiar with the team’s offseason strategy confirmed. According to two The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal, however, Senga wants a chance to win immediately, which could be a stumbling block with the Rangers since they have six consecutive losing seasons.
In Maddux’s first turn with the Rangers, then-manager Ron Washington delegated the management of the pitching staff to Maddux, giving him more autonomy and authority than many coaches. That is likely to change under Bochy, who is considered an excellent manager of pitching usage. On his way to three World Series titles with San Francisco, though, Bochy had one veteran pitching coach: since-retired Dave Righetti.
Maddux was the Rangers pitching coach from 2009-15, a period when the team won three AL West titles and advanced twice to the World Series. He left when his contract expired and spent the next two seasons as the Washington Nationals pitching coach before spending the last five seasons in the same role with St. Louis. He also was Milwaukee’s pitching coach for six years before joining the Rangers.
The Nationals, with a staff headed by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, made the playoffs in both of his seasons. St. Louis, with veteran Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation, has made the playoffs the last four seasons.
The Rangers are expected to add veteran starting pitchers this winter, although it’s hard to find anybody of the caliber of Scherzer and Wainwright.
The Rangers’ rotation needs help. Over the last two years, first-time pitching coach Doug Mathis was handed mostly an assortment of bargain-bin finds and unproven prospects. Rangers starters allowed the fourth most homers per nine innings and the sixth highest walk percentage in the majors over those two years. Not surprisingly, the Rangers ranked 26th in rotation ERA in that span.
Carter wins Gold: Outfielder Evan Carter, the Rangers’ second-round draft pick in 2020, was named a minor league Gold Glove winner Tuesday. Carter, 20, has zoomed up the Rangers’ prospect chart, primarily as a hitter, but his speed and fielding ability make him a legitimate center field candidate. He finished the season at Double-A Frisco and had an .885 OPS for the 88 games he played.
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