Things are happening.

Art Howe brings 14 years of big league managerial experience — in both leagues — to the Rangers dugout, where he will be Ron Washington’s bench coach. Howe’s first coaching job was as Bobby Valentine’s hitting instructor and first base coach for the Rangers in 1985. Since then, he’s managed the Astros (where Washington played his final big league season, in 1989), the A’s, and the Mets, and of course, he had Washington on his own staff for his six seasons at the helm of the A’s.

One writer from another market told me yesterday that Oakland is going to be even more concerned about Howe being in their division rival’s dugout than about Washington being there. That makes me happy.

Washington is apparently interested in bringing former Rangers center fielder Gary Pettis in to serve as his first base coach and outfield instructor. Pettis was Milwaukee’s AAA hitting coach last year.

If Pettis joins the staff, that signals a return to AAA for Bobby Jones, who managed the RedHawks from 2002 to 2005.

Washington and Jon Daniels want Don Wakamatsu to remain in Texas, and as the staff is shaking out it would probably be as third base coach and catching instructor. No word on whether Wakamatsu (who is under contract for 2007) is interested in that role.

Steve Smith is not expected to return as third base coach and infield instructor, but the latter is already covered. Howe will work with the club’s infielders.

With one exception. “Hank Blalock is mine,” Washington said. “I’ve got Hank. I’m going to make Hank better.”

According to published reports, Barry Zito and Torii Hunter and Jermaine Dye are more interested in becoming Rangers now than they were last week, simply because Washington is here. Love that development, not just because of those three (the latter two of which won’t be free agents for another year) but because of what it represents in the larger picture.

Washington met fourth grade students at a Dallas school for disadvantaged children yesterday and met Rangers fans at ******* in the West End last night, will meet more fans at Academy Sports in North Dallas tonight, and next week starts out on a junket to see his players. After meeting with Kevin Millwood and Mark Teixeira here in town, Washington will start his travels by visiting Gary Matthews Jr., Blalock, and Michael Young in California. He eventually plans to hop down to the Dominican Republic as well.

Texas picked up lefthander Ron Mahay’s $1.2 million option for 2007.

The deadline for sealed bids to negotiate with Seibu Lions righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka was yesterday afternoon, and the Japanese club has until Tuesday to decide whether to accept the prevailing bid (the club is evidently not told by MLB which team submitted it). But when Ichiro Suzuki was posted by the Orix BlueWave six years ago, the BlueWave announced the day after bidding closed that it had accepted the high bid (Seattle’s $13.125 million), and MLB revealed just hours later that the Mariners had secured the negotiating rights.

So we may know which team made the prevailing bid any time.

San Diego hired Angels pitching coach Bud Black to be its new manager, yet another move that weakens an AL West bunkmate. Oakland is the final MLB club that Trey Hillman remains a candidate to manage in 2007, and the A’s apparently have five candidates on their list: Hillman, Orel Hershiser (who interviewed yesterday), Oakland bench coach Bob Geren, Colorado bench coach Jamie Quirk, and Mets bench coach Manny Acta. There’s been no official indication yet that the A’s plan to interview Wakamatsu.

Philadelphia hired Charley Kerfeld as a special assistant to GM Pat Gillick. Kerfeld had served in a similar role with Texas last year.

Ricardo Rodriguez, David Dellucci, Fabio Castro, and Kerfeld for Vicente Padilla, Robinson Tejeda, Jake Blalock, Daniel Haigwood, Don Welke, and Howe. Sorta.

Looks like the Phillies are conceding that they won’t be able to keep Dellucci from leaving as a free agent this winter. That’s a trade they surely regret making.

Castro fired five shutout innings on Monday for Cibao in the Dominican Winter League. He’s allowed three unearned runs on six hits and five walks in 11 innings, fanning 12. That’s a trade Texas surely regrets making.

The Rangers signed 28-year-old outfielder/infielder Matt Kata to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. He played for Arizona and Philadelphia in the 2003 through 2005 seasons, spending 2006 with AAA Louisville in the Reds system.

Righthander Joselo Diaz, whom Texas traded for Matt Stairs at last season’s trading deadline, is reportedly close to signing with Japan’s Yokohama Bay Stars.

Baltimore signed Ruddy Yan and Jon Leicester to minor league deals. The Nationals signed Colby Lewis, Mike Bacsik, Chris Michalak, and Danny Ardoin to minor league deals. Erick Burke reupped with San Diego.

Boston hired Dave Klipstein, who had been the Rangers’ Central crosschecker, as an area scout.

The Dodgers named former Rangers scouting director Tim Hallgren their new director of amateur scouting.

I’ll fire off a news flash when there are developments in the Matsuzaka process.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at

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