According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, the Cubs will announce at a press conference this afternoon that they have signed Rudy Jaramillo to a three-year, $2.42 million contract to serve as Chicago's hitting coach.
As for where Texas goes to replace Jaramillo, a number of names have been tossed out by the local press, but no candidates have been confirmed by the club. An interesting quote from Jon Daniels (published in a local beat writer's blog) on the profile he's looking for in the team's next hitting coach: "Watching the playoffs, it's obvious that regardless of personnel type, managerial style, etc., the one thing winning clubs do is consistently make pitchers earn every out. That's an area we can improve in. It's a combination of everything - situational hitting, forcing the pitcher to make a pitch, playing as a team rather than at-bat to at-bat."
The quote is interesting not because it's provocative or peculiar; anyone watching this club in 2009 would agree that the Rangers were extraordinarily easy to pitch to. It's interesting but because it sheds light on an organizational mindset that the vacancy left by Jaramillo's departure may actually be an opportunity to get better. Notice that Daniels doesn't point a finger at the hitting coach - his comments could just as easily be pointed at the players whose job is to execute the at-bats - but the expectation is obviously that, between coach and hitters, there is a concrete philosophy that the club is focused on adhering to in order to reverse the widespread backward step that the lineup took in 2009.
According to one local report, Jaramillo's departure could push Ivan Rodriguez toward not re-signing with Texas.
The Rangers were among eight big league clubs to meet with 18-year-old Japanese pitching phenom Yusei Kikuchi in Japan earlier this week, sending not only Senior Director of Player Personnel A.J. Preller and Director of Pacific Rim Operations Jim Colborn, but also lefthander Derek Holland. According to reports from the Japanese site Yakyubaka.com, Kikuchi "had fun talking to" Holland as he picked his brain on life in the minor leagues.
Texas came armed with a message from Nolan Ryan and a visual presentation comparing the young lefthander's opportunity to that of 18-year-old pro golfer Ryo Ishikawa, who the Rangers happened to know is Kikuchi's favorite athlete. The Rangers hope to separate themselves by appealing to Kikuchi's desire to be a pioneer like his hero Ishikawa, who has broken onto the PGA scene - and by sending Holland, whose quick path to the big leagues might be one that he feels he can follow in an organization committed to developing young pitching.
Righthander Tanner Scheppers is sitting 95-97 in the Arizona Fall League and has touched 99. In two relief outings, he's permitted one hit and one walk in three innings, punching out four and picking off a runner. Righthander Danny Gutierrez - sitting 93-95 - fired three no-hit innings in his AFL debut, walking two, fanning two (both looking), and coaxing two infield pop-ups. Both Scheppers and Gutierrez are flashing plus curves.
Infielder Marcus Lemon is seeing AFL time in center field.
Baseball America named Neftali Feliz the number two prospect in the Pacific Coast League (though he "drew strong consideration for the number one ranking," which instead went to Giants catcher Buster Posey) and Justin Smoak the number nine prospect in the league.
According to Yakyubaka.com, the Nippon Ham Fighters have released Jason Botts (and Ryan Wing), and according to Sanspo.com, the Hanshin Tigers are planning to release Kevin Mench.
Catcher Kenji Johjima's decision to opt out of the final two years of his Mariners contract is bad news, as Seattle paid Johjima no buyout and now has $16 million of found money as a result of Johjima's departure.
Unsigned Rangers draftees identified by Baseball America in its rundown of the top 25 college recruiting classes:
4. TCU (LHP Matt Purke, Rangers' 1st-round pick)
5. Cal State Fullerton (OF Anthony Hutting, 38th)
8. Mississippi State (LHP/OF C.C. Watson, 29th)
17. Miami (LHP Jared Grundy, 46th)
Renowned infield coach Perry Hill declined the Pirates' offer to return as the club's first base coach and infield instructor.
The Rangers are putting on an instructional youth baseball camp on Saturday, November 14, headlined by Josh Hamilton. The camp, which will be held at Rangers Ballpark from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., is for ages 10 to 18. Campers will receive instruction from former Rangers players like Dave Hostetler, Mike Jeffcoat, Mike Simms, and Todd Van Poppel on hitting, fielding, throwing, baserunning, weight training, flexibility, and team offense and defense. Guest speakers will include Jim Sundberg and David Murphy, and each camper will have the opportunity to meet Hamilton and receive an autographed photo and cap.
Spots in the camp are available for $150, and lunch will be provided.
More details and registration information can be found at texasrangers.com/youthballpark or by calling 817-273-5297.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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