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Former Yankees hitting coach Rick Down dies at 68

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Rick Down, who was the hitting coach for the New York Yankees and several other clubs, has passed away at the age of 68. He died at his home following a long illness.

Down served two stints as the Yankees hitting coach, from 1993-95 and then again from 2002-03. He held the same job with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Orioles and Mets over the years. He was likewise a good minor league manager, leading the Triple-A Columbus Clippers — then a Yankees affiliate — to three consecutive division titles from 1990-92 and a franchise-record 95 wins in 1992. He would, unfortunately, be bypassed for major league managerial jobs, though he did manage in Winter League ball many times and served as an advanced scout and hitting coordinator.

Down never made the big leagues as a player, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was an outfielder in the Montreal Expos system when that organization was just loaded with outfielders, including Andre Dawson, Ellis Valentine, Warren Cromartie and Jerry White. He retired as a player in his late 20s before embarking on his long and successful coaching career.

Report: Angels to sign Cody Allen

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Angels and reliever Cody Allen are in agreement on a one-year contract, pending a physical. The value of the contract is not yet known.

Allen, 30, was looking for an opportunity to close and the Angels can certainly provide that. He will likely be the favorite to break camp as the closer. 2018 was the roughest year of his career, however, as he finished with a 4.70 ERA, 27 saves, and a 80/33 K/BB ratio in 67 innings. Among Allen’s six full seasons, his 27.7 strikeout rate and 11.4 percent walk rate represented career-worsts. FanGraphs also shows him losing nearly a full MPH on his average fastball velocity.

The Angels lost closer Keynan Middleton to Tommy John surgery early last season and he likely won’t return until the second half of the 2019 season. Blake Parker, who handled save situations in Middleton’s place, was non-tendered by the Angels in November and ended up signing with the Twins. The closer’s role is Allen’s to lose, it seems.