At this point in the hiring process, it might be easier to list who the Detroit Tigers won't be interviewing for their pitching coach opening than to name the four or five candidates the team would like to speak with about the position.
Perhaps the biggest available name on the "free agent market" is former Braves and Orioles coach Leo Mazzone, but according to the Freep, the Tigers don't currently plan to contact him. Mazzone, however, would be interested in joining Jim Leyland's staff (or any staff, for that matter).
Another popular name that had made the rounds was former A's and Mets coach Rick Peterson. However, he appears to be the front-runner for the pitching coach position with the Texas Rangers.
The Tigers may have already zeroed in on their leading candidate, as well. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Twins minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp is among the four candidates who have interviewed for the job. Jon Paul Morosi mentions that Minnesota boasted four home-grown pitchers in its starting rotation this season, each of whom won at least 10 games. The Twins teach their pitchers to throw strikes, and Knapp obviously has a major influence in that organizational philosophy.
Knapp also doesn't appear in line for a promotion any time soon, as Rick Anderson just signed an extension to remain on Ron Gardenhire's major-league staff. And hey, it certainly can't hurt to poach from a fierce division rival.
Two other things worth reading, if you're curious about Knapp:
- At the MotownSports forum, Eddie of Detroit Tigers Thoughts posted this Baseball America feature, detailing how Knapp turned a project into a prospect that led the minor leagues in strikeouts. (Hat tip to the DTW's Mr. Ferris)
- The blog Lip Service has a post explaining how Knapp applied his coaching philosophies to the Double-A New Britain pitching staff.
No word on the other coaches the Tigers have interviewed (though Billfer thinks Toledo pitching coach A.J. Sager is surely among the candidates). But for those hoping that the Tigers will hire Mazzone, you kind of have to feel for the guy. He told ESPN.com's Bob Klapisch that he can't understand why no one's been calling.
"I've let other teams know I'm available. Money and contract are not an issue. I wasn't in spring training for the first time in 42 years and it really bothered me. This has been my life since I graduated high school."
Mazzone is reluctant to embrace video technology or a strict adherance to pitch counts, preferring to build up arm strength through extra throwing sessions, and believing that starting pitchers going deep into games benefit the pitching staff as a whole. Unfortunately, that makes him seem old-fashioned compared to younger, seemingly more innovative colleagues.
Will somebody please give poor Leo a call? The man just wants to work.