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Kranitz gone; Connor likely O's pitching coach

Kranitz gone; Connor likely O's pitching coach

BALTIMORE -- With heavy speculation that Rangers Minor League special assistant Mark Connor is in line to become the new Orioles pitching coach, Rick Kranitz officially accepted an offer Monday night to become the Astros Minor League pitching coordinator in 2011.

"Rick adds a wealth of knowledge and experience to our development system," Astros director of player development Fred Nelson said in a statement. "He has a reputation for developing young pitchers and the understanding of what it takes to pitch in the Major Leagues. We are fortunate to have someone of Rick's caliber join our organization."

Kranitz, 52, spent the past three seasons as the Orioles pitching coach and was thought to be in the mix elsewhere in the American League East, namely with the Yankees. He got his first big break serving as Yankees manager Joe Girardi's pitching coach with the Marlins in 2006, and was named Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year that season.

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Under Kranitz's tutelage, the Marlins became the first staff in history to field four rookies with 10 or more wins. He was tasked with an equally young and inexperienced group of Orioles arms in 2010, a staff that included Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman, who were all under 25 years old.

Those arms will almost definitely now be under the tutelage of Connor, who recently wrapped instructional league with the Rangers and is reportedly close to inking a two-year deal with Baltimore to rejoin his close friend and O's manager Buck Showalter.

Prior to his most recent stint with Texas, Connor served as the Rangers' bullpen coach from 2003-05, and became the team's pitching coach under Showalter in '06. His history with Showalter dates back to their coaching days in New York, and Connor went with him to Arizona, where he served as the team's pitching coordinator and also was active in scouting and preparing for the Draft. He was the pitching coach for the D-backs from the inaugural 1998 season until 2000, and held that same post with Toronto before coming to Texas.

Connor will join a revamped staff that is expected to include hitting coach Jim Presley -- who will take the position vacated with Terry Crowley moving into an evaluator role -- as well as bullpen coach Rick Adair, who will replace Alan Dunn.

Showalter also inherited bench coach Jeff Datz, first-base coach John "T-Bone" Shelby and third-base coach Gary Allenson, whose collective fates in the organization are still undecided. Showalter has declined to officially name any of next season's staff, preferring to wait until it is entirely together. There are also some "moving parts" involved, namely ex-Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, who is believed to be in the running for at least one of the vacant managerial jobs around baseball. Wakamatsu is expected to serve as Showalter's bench coach if he does not get a managerial job.

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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