Rangers pitchers have mixed emotions

Rangers pitchers have mixed emotions

ARLINGTON -- Rangers pitchers were both surprised and disappointed that pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti were dismissed after Friday's 9-8 victory over the Blue Jays.

None of the pitchers saw this coming, even though the Rangers are last in the Major Leagues in ERA and it had been talked about internally for a couple of weeks. The disappointment came from their lack of performance, which partially caused the dismissal of two men they respect.

"I don't think anybody likes it," pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "We lost two good men, and guys who cared a lot, worked hard and did everything they could to make us better. It's never a good feeling.

"Pitching in this league isn't easy, and we haven't pitched real well. I don't think it's Dom's and Goose's fault. We just haven't pitched. More than anything else, we feel bad for those guys and, to a certain extent, feel somewhat responsible."

Connor was the Rangers bullpen coach from 2003-05 before taking over as pitching coach in '06. Chiti replaced him as bullpen coach after serving four years in a variety of roles in the front office.

"I'm upset that collectively, as a group, we couldn't pitch better so those guys could stay around," reliever Jamey Wright said. "They are two of the best pitching coaches I've ever had and I've been around a long time. I understand what's going on. They were looking for a different voice and a different perspective. But those guys are going to be missed. We have a lot of respect for both of them."

The Rangers had a 5.27 ERA when Chiti and Connor were dismissed, the highest in the Major Leagues. They currently have nine pitchers on the disabled list, including four -- Millwood, Brandon McCarthy, Jason Jennings and Kason Gabbard -- who were in their Opening Day rotation. So is reliever Joaquin Benoit, who was the Rangers Pitcher of the Year in 2007.

"The number of injuries has been unfortunate," reliever C.J. Wilson said. "That has to do with the players, not the coaches. We're the ones who have underperformed. There's only so much you can do as coaches. We're the ones out there that don't hit our spots and give up runs, or don't make quality pitches and give up runs."

Rangers pitchers were mollified by the promotion of Andy Hawkins, who has been the Triple-A manager for 2 1/2 years and has been in the Rangers farm system for seven of the past eight years. Just about every Rangers pitcher at some point has worked with Hawkins, either in the system or at least in Spring Training.

"If you're going to bring anybody in, bring somebody who knows who you are," Wilson said. "I've known Andy for seven years and I'm comfortable with him.

Said reliever Frank Francisco: "I think he'll do a good job. He knows a lot of the young pitchers and he'll handle it real well."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.