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Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-10-30

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-10-30
Rick Knapp came to the right place to make a name for himself as a major league pitching coach.

Knapp, 46, was hired by Detroit to succeed Chuck Hernandez as the Tigers' pitching coach and see if he could get manager Jim Leyland's pitchers to quit walking so many batters.

Detroit pitchers issued 644 walks to rank 13th in the American League.

"Rick is a quality baseball person, and he will be a solid addition to our staff," Leyland said. "He brings an excellent track record of developing major league caliber pitchers. He hates walks. I mean he really hates walks -- and as the minor league pitching coordinator of the Twins the last 12 years, he taught their pitchers to hate them, too."

His major project will be overseeing a return to form from Justin Verlander, who lost command of his fastball last season and had to come out of nearly every start by the fifth or sixth inning because of a high pitch count. Verlander almost doubled his career-high loss total this year by losing 17 times.

"In every talk, in every meeting, we tried to de-emphasize velocity," Knapp said of what he tried to do with Minnesota pitchers, "in the fact that velocity would take care of itself if we concentrated on delivery and location."

The Twins lost their top 2007 pitcher (Johan Santana) to a trade, yet the Knapp-taught Minnesota rotation in 2008 featured five starters who consistently threw strikes and got outs.

"That's how I feel as the major league pitching coach of the Tigers," Knapp said. "If you're going to make an impression on me, throw the ball over the plate. It was told to me a long, long time ago: If you throw the ball over the plate, you have a chance. If you don't, you don't have a chance. That's always been our philosophy, and I hope that it can translate."

Leyland interviewed four candidates to replace the fired Hernandez, including two from Detroit's organization, but he felt Knapp had solid credentials and made the strongest impression.

"He's a nuts-and-bolts guy," Leyland said. "I liked him right way."

Knapp will come to Detroit for organizational meetings soon and will meet up with right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, who will be in town for some rehab work associated with his recuperation from surgery last spring to remove a right rib.

Knapp will have one pitcher, Armando Galarraga, who throws strikes and was Detroit's best starter as a rookie. Beyond that, the rotation is not set.

"He's shown results," Leyland said. "He's got a program that has been successful, and I believe a program that has been successful in the minors will be successful in the big leagues. There are no tricks."

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2008

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