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08/02/08 8:56 PM ET
Former Rangers fond of Connor, Chiti
Dismissed Texas coaches helped Mench, Barajas, Wilkerson
By Shawn Shroyer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The buzz in the Texas clubhouse on Saturday revolved around the overnight dismissals of former Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor and former bullpen coach Dom Chiti. However, it was also a topic of conversation in the visiting clubhouse among a few Blue Jays. Kevin Mench, Rod Barajas and Brad Wilkerson were all once members of the Rangers, and during their time there, no matter how long or brief, they got to know Connor and Chiti. Mench was a Ranger from 2002-06, Barajas from 2004-06 and Wilkerson from 2006-07. All three seemed to have the same opinion of the dismissals and shared some of their experiences with Connor and Chiti. Although Connor and Chiti normally dealt only with the pitchers, Wilkerson remembered how Connor, whom some of the players called "Goose," helped him with some throwing problems of his own in 2007. "It's a tough situation," Wilkerson said. "It's a tough business. Those guys worked their butts off. Goose worked with me last year and helped me with my throwing. Anything you needed, they were there to work with you on it." Being a catcher, Barajas might have had the most interaction with Connor and Chiti and he gave them credit for helping him develop as a catcher during his time with the Rangers. One of the reasons Connor and Chiti were let go was Texas' 5.27 team ERA, which is worst in the Major Leagues. But as a catcher, Barajas knows coaches can't control ERAs once their pitchers take the mound. "I've actually known Mark Connor for about 10 years," Barajas said. "In my time here, I thought those guys were always well prepared. And you know, it was up to the pitchers to perform. Those guys really helped me prepare and helped me a lot with my game calling." Mench, who spent the majority of his career with the Rangers and lives in Keller, Texas, hadn't even heard the news until one of his neighbors stopped him to talk about it. "My neighbor actually told me today," Mench said. "I guess somebody had to take the blame, but it's not like they were the ones throwing the pitches. I've played here and I know how hard it is with the way balls fly out of this stadium. It's just the nature of the business." While all three players were disappointed to see two of their former coaches lose their jobs, from what they knew, either personally or from word of mouth, of Andy Hawkins, Connor's replacement, and Jim Colborn, Chiti's replacement, they believed the Rangers made good choices.
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.