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It's Official: Knapp is the Tigers' Pitching Coach

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Evidently, the Detroit Tigers were closer to naming a pitching coach than we may have realized on Thursday. There's a reason Rick Knapp's name was thrown out there into the news cycle, while none of the other candidates were mentioned. Knapp was the guy. And yesterday, the Tigers made it official.

Knapp comes over to Detroit from the Minnesota Twins organization, where he was the minor league pitching coordinator. During his 12-year tenure, his duties included working with pitchers during the fall instructional league and Spring Training, and roaming throughout the Twins' minor league system for tutoring during the regular season.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Knapp had an 80-minute interview with manager Jim Leyland on Tuesday, and was formally offered the position on Thursday.

Like others in the Tigersosphere, I think this is a great hire. Not being all that familiar with pitching coaches around the majors, had I been asked (or had I posted) about who the Tigers should hire, I would've suggested looking for a top candidate in the minors. (Of course, that's easy to say now, isn't it?) And that's exactly what Leyland did.

Do I wish they'd have talked to Leo Mazzone? Sure. But we don't know who else the Tigers interviewed, either. I like Mazzone's philosophies on building up arm strength and stamina. But what is his record with development? With rehabilitating flawed pitchers? Knapp has done that in the Twins' organization, and his body of work is readily apparent in Minnesota's major league pitching staff.

And if you believe - as we all surely do - that Tigers pitchers need to be much, much better at throwing strikes, how could you not be mesmerized by what Knapp said he teaches his pitchers? (The emphasis is mine.)

Knapp said he has one foremost pitching conviction: Make the first pitch a strike. He adopted that mantra when he heard a veteran pitcher, Bob Wells, say it in spring training several years ago. “He made it sound so simple. I knew it had to be perfect,” Knapp said.

[...]

Knapp also talked Friday about another pitching ideal: Get an out in the first three pitches of the at-bat. That keeps the starter’s pitch count down and allows him to reach the late innings (another Tigers problem this season).

This was further emphasized in a must-read profile of Knapp by Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passan, written back in August. (Hat tip to Billfer) Check out this quote:

“And if you’re walking more guys than the recommended daily allowance, you will hear from me.”

Knapp and Dontrelle Willis should become fast friends, don't you think?

Now, the Tigers need to find a bullpen coach. And according to Leyland, they're "not even close to hiring one." Well, first things first, I suppose. Though I can certainly think of someone the team should call, Leyland said it's highly likely ("99% sure") that the hire will come from within the organization.