Newcomers Iapoce, Brocail get in Rangers groove

Newcomers Iapoce, Brocail get in Rangers groove

SURPRISE, Ariz.-- When players change teams, the stories about chemistry are important. If it's a new reliever, how will he fit in with the bullpen? If it's a new catcher, how will he handle the staff?

But just as important as the players' chemistry is that between players and coaches. So when the Rangers brought in new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce and pitching coach Doug Brocail, it was incumbent on everyone to make things jell.

Iapoce had never been a Major League hitting coach. He spent the last three seasons in the Cubs' organization, working as a special assistant in the Minor Leagues. When infielder Joey Gallo started looking into his new hitting coach, he called a couple of Iapoce's former pupils from Chicago.

"When they hired him, I asked around," Gallo said. "Kris Bryant had a lot of good things to say about Iapoce."

Gallo said Iapoce also came with the endorsement of Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who worked with him when Iapoce was the hitting coach at Class A Greensboro in 2007.

Rangers on additions to staff

While Gallo is still a rookie by Major League standards, he is a veteran of the Rangers' organization, having played for six Minor League teams since he was selected 39th overall in the 2012 Draft. As such, he has worked with many hitting coaches and has started to get a feel for each of them.

"You can go into a cage and do what you need to do, and they know what you're working on," Gallo said. "The hitting coach will go along with whatever you're comfortable with, and I think that's important."

Gallo said coaches are less dictatorial with their instruction and more willing to offer advice on what feels comfortable. If a coach suggests a tweak the player doesn't like, they'll work together to find something that works.

Because of that, Gallo said while it takes time to develop rapport with a new coach, it's not a big issue.

"I was excited to have a new guy and a new way of looking at things," Gallo said. "We'll see what he has for us."

Right-hander A.J. Griffin is entering his first season with Texas after pitching with the Oakland Athletics in 2012-13. He hasn't pitched since '13 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in '14.

So when the Rangers hired Brocail as their new pitching coach, it didn't affect Griffin much -- he was going to be getting a new instructor either way.

"You just get to camp and you talk a little bit and you go out there and do your thing and you work together," Griffin said. "We try to feel each other out."

Brocail, who served in the same role with the Astros from 2011-13, and his staff have already made a positive impact on the new pitchers. Griffin said right away they saw a hiccup in his delivery that was quickly corrected. The chemistry is already there.

"If you have a good coach, it's pretty easy," Griffin said. "With Curt Young over in Oakland, we hit it off right away. And the same thing has happened here with Doug. I've just been fortunate to have some pretty good coaches."

Justin Emerson is a graduate student pursuing a masters degree in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.