October 18, 2013

Rangers notes: Pitchers weigh in on Nolan Ryan’s departure

Rangers lefty Matt Harrison recalls a lunch with the Ryan Express years ago.

Matt Harrison fondly recalled what it meant as a rookie to have a guy like Nolan Ryan take him to lunch. They spent about an hour talking about all aspects of the game, a conversation that still resonates with the Texas Rangers’ left-hander.

“I definitely wasn’t going to say ‘no’ to having lunch with someone who is a legend in baseball,” Harrison said. “It took me a while to open up to him, somewhat intimidated knowing who he was, but that talk laid the foundation for me.”

Harrison is one of several pitchers in the organization who benefited from having a Hall of Famer of Ryan’s stature readily available. Derek Holland also took advantage of that luxury, meeting with Ryan after the 2012 season on ways he can improve his game and then turned in his best season yet last year.

Closer Joe Nathan cited Ryan as one of the reasons he signed with the Rangers two years ago.

The news of Ryan’s resigning from his post as CEO at the end of the month caught the pitchers by surprise, and they understand the magnitude of the loss.

“It’s pretty unexpected,” Harrison said. “To lose someone like him, it’s going to be hard, but we’re going to get through it. We’re going to have to move on like we always do.”

Holland told that Ryan “was a mentor and a friend.... He helped me on and off the field. I’m devastated to hear the news that he’s retiring. I’m going to miss him.”

On Friday, the day after Ryan announced he would leave the organization, Harrison proudly retold the story of going to a Pappadeaux restaurant in Arlington with baseball’s strikeout king. Ryan gave Harrison advice on having mound presence and the importance of never showing an opponent a “defeated look.”

He also discussed little things with Harrison, such as how to throw certain pitches and how to set hitters up in different situations.

It took a couple of years for Harrison to implement the advice from Ryan, but he eventually became an All-Star in the league and was named last season’s Opening Day starter before his season was cut short by three surgeries.

Harrison traces part of his success to that lunch with Ryan and knows his loss is felt throughout the clubhouse.

“It’s definitely hard to see him go,” Harrison said.

Hawkins targeted

Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins is among the candidates expected to interview for the Baltimore Orioles’ opening at pitching coach, according to multiple reports.

Hawkins has spent the past five seasons as the Rangers’ bullpen coach, and 11 of the past 12 seasons within the organization. The Orioles have several players with Rangers ties, including relievers Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day.

The Rangers almost always grant teams permission to interview their coaches if it’s for career advancement.


• The Rangers continue to interview candidates for two open positions — bench coach and first-base/ infield coach — on the big-league staff. An announcement on at least the bench coach hiring is expected next week.
• The Rangers have until the World Series to decide whether to pick up the $9 million option on closer Joe Nathan for next season. If the Rangers pick it up, Nathan has 48 hours to reject it and become a free agent. By doing so, Nathan — who earned the option to reject it by finishing 55 games last season — would forfeit a $750,000 buyout. If the Rangers decline the option outright, Nathan would become a free agent and receive the $750,000 buyout.

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