Pitching coach Doug Brocail was being interviewed early Tuesday morning by a few local scribes when a stranger in Texas Rangers gear interrupted for a quick introduction.
"Hi, I'm Dan Warthen," new assistant pitching coach Dan Warthen said.
With an exchange of names and handshakes, Warthen left Brocail to the wolves. One pounced, asking the Rangers' third-year pitching coach if his hind quarters were getting a bit warm.
Brocail enters spring training aware of the landscape. While he doesn't feel threatened by Warthen, a longtime major-league pitching coach who once coached him, Brocail acknowledges that the Warthen addition might put him on the hot seat.
"It might. It might," Brocail said. "I understand how this baseball works. I am going to go out and do my job to the best of my ability. They have an easy decision to make if I fail."
In the same breath, Brocail praised Warthen, who after nine seasons as the New York Mets' pitching coach in essence replaces fired bullpen coach Brad Holman. Hector Ortiz will be the bullpen coach, but Brocail and Warthen will work together as Brocail and Holman worked.
"Tremendous help," Brocail said. "I know him well. He knows me extremely well. It’s not going to rest all on my shoulders. I’ve got somebody I trust — not that I didn’t trust Brad at all — but when we made the decision to go out and get Dan, it was one I was really comfortable with."
Both have their work cut out for them this spring. Most of the 37 pitchers on the camp roster have already been to the Surprise Recreation Campus ahead of the official report date for pitchers and catchers Wednesday.
Two of the 37, Joe Palumbo and Shawn Tolleson, are injured and won't be on a regular schedule as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Brocail and Warthen will be taking a simplified approach to the remaining 35.
Brocail called it getting back to the ABCs of pitching.
"Take the simple, what we are good at, and utilize it," Brocail said. "I think so many times we worry about the opposing team we forget how good we are. We get away from what we are good at. We need to get back to basics. 'This is what you do well, now go and attack.' I think we got away from that."
Pitchers will be given one thing to work on early in camp, instead of two or three. Once they have a handle on their task, a new one will be added while still working on the original.
The list begins with throwing first-pitch strikes, which will help reduce extended at-bats and pitch counts.
"Strike one is the most important thing," Brocail said. "Everybody knows we led the league in 3-2 counts. That’s unacceptable, especially with the arms we have."