Jimmy Nelson #52 of the Milwaukee Brewers talks with pitching coach Rick Kranitz #39, Martin Maldonado #12, and Jonathan Lucroy #20 after a rough first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park on July 18, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
Photo: Tom Lynn/Getty Images
Photo: Tom Lynn/Getty Images

Braves close to hiring Rick Kranitz as pitching coach

The Braves are working toward hiring Rick Kranitz as their new pitching coach, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday.

Kranitz has a strong reputation in the industry after serving as pitching coach for Florida (2006-07), Baltimore (2008-10), Milwaukee (2011-15) and Philadelphia last season. He’s highly regarded for his ability to develop younger pitchers and comfortable relationships with his players.

The Phillies produced a 4.14 staff ERA under Kranitz in 2018, though they were better than that 18th-rated number illustrates because of an all-time poor defense. The Phillies were seventh in FIP (3.83), sixth in WAR (19.6) and in strikeout rate (sixth, 23.9).

Kranitz has gotten the most out of strikeout arms before, including 2012, when his Brewers staff struck out 1,402 hitters, second-best total in MLB history. Phillies ace Aaron Nola, in particular, blossomed under his tutelage, earning a 2.37 ERA and striking out 224. 

But Kranitz, 60, was let go in favor of the younger Chris Young. Young, the Phillies’ assistant pitching coach, received interest elsewhere, which prompted the Phillies to promote him and allow Kranitz to seek other opportunities.

He spent three seasons with the Phillies, transitioning from bullpen coach to assistant pitching coach to the head title. Baseball America named Kranitz coach of the year in 2006 for his work with several young Marlins, including Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez.

"Kranny is a big relationship guy, so there is a strong bond with our players and Kranny,” Phillies pitcher Tommy Hunter said, via MLB.com. “Not just our pitchers, but position players and everyone. There's something to be said about a guy like Kranny in your clubhouse. That's why we all loved him. But then again, this is not a decision of the players, so as a player, you just have to accept it and move forward."

The Braves dismissed Chuck Hernandez despite the staff making strides. The organization wanted a fresh voice for its bevy of youngsters. Kranitz will be tasked with continuing the growth of All-Star Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb while grooming MLB’s greatest collection of pitching prospects.

Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, Kolby Allard, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright each made his major league debut for the Braves last season. That doesn’t include others, such as Max Fried and Luiz Gohara, who will compete for spots on the team.

Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Kevin Gausman and Julio Teheran currently are included in the rotation, leaving just one spot for a budding youngster. Even so, Kranitz will be instrumental in helping each achieve his potential.

Kranitz also will be tasked with trimming walks. The Braves walked 635 batters last season, second most in the bigs. The bullpen was a bit of a roller coaster, with a few key pitchers - Dan Winkler, Sam Freeman and Shane Carle - being burned out before the postseason.

The field of candidates wasn’t disclosed, but the Braves considered a number of external and internal candidates, conducting weeks-worth of interviews. Kranitz emerged as the ideal fit with a resume tailored for where the Braves organization stands.

David O’Brien of The Athletic was the first to report the Braves and Kranitz were moving toward an agreement.

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