Search for pitching coach focused on protecting stability
Showalter to look inside for Wallace replacement, but big league experience key
Over the next several days, the Orioles’ top brass is expected to meet to iron out a short list of candidates to fill the team’s pitching coach job left empty by Dave Wallace’s retirement from active major league coaching.
The Orioles have a significant void to fill after the departure of Wallace, a veteran with an impressive and lengthy resume of developing pitchers over the past two decades. His partnership with bullpen coach Dom Chiti was a rare one because it was almost as if they shared pitching coach duties, but many Orioles pitchers swore by the duo and credited them for their success over the past three seasons.
Whoever replaces Wallace will be manager Buck Showalter’s sixth pitching coach. Wallace held the job the longest, offering stability that the Orioles’ arms needed.
While Chiti would seem to be a seamless hire to take over for Wallace, Showalter said in his season-ending news conference that he’s reluctant to take Chiti away from what he sees as an area of strength. Chiti has worked well with a variety of personalities in the bullpen such as Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach. Showalter expects Chiti and his other remaining coaches to be back next season.
The Orioles bullpen was again one of the best in baseball, posting a 3.40 ERA that led the American League and was third in the majors. With the return of lockdown arms such as Britton, Brach and O’Day, plus developing right-hander Mychal Givens and situational lefty Donnie Hart, the bullpen goes into next season as the team’s most stable unit.
“Dom is obviously a real bird in the hand down in the bullpen,” Showalter said at the end of the season. “It’s been a big reason, he and [Wallace] both, that our bullpen has been really consistent and strong, and should be one of our strengths next year. I’m going to be careful, and we’re going to be careful, not to tinker with that too much.”
Showalter said the team will initially look internally for Wallace’s replacement, and Double-A Bowie pitching coach Alan Mills is one candidate who is highly regarded throughout the organization as an up-and-comer who has a future on a major league staff. Mills, a former major league reliever who pitched parts of nine seasons with the Orioles, played an instrumental role in the development of Givens and Hart at Bowie. He has also been a spring training instructor for the past several years, so the veterans are familiar with him.
But historically the pitching coach hires
FanFest is Jan. 28
After last year’s awkwardly timed December FanFest, the Orioles announced Friday that this winter’s event to drum up support for the season will return to its regular January slot.
This year’s edition will be held Jan. 28 at the Baltimore Convention Center, with doors opening at 10 a.m. for season-ticket holders and 11 a.m. for the rest of the public.
The event traditionally includes a question-and-answer session with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette, autograph sessions with players, and interactive games and clinics for fans.
Each year, the winter event is seen as a rallying point for fans to become engaged for the upcoming season, mingle with players and perhaps buy tickets for that season’s games. With the event held in early December last year, before tickets went on sale and before the Orioles made their major move to re-sign first baseman Chris Davis to the richest contract in team history, the feeling was said to be different.
Tickets for this year’s event aren’t yet on sale, but check orioles.com/FanFest for more information. — Jon Meoli Showalter has made — Mark Connor, Rick Adair and Wallace — had decades of major league coaching experience. There’s a certain level of authority that comes with that experience that Showalter tends to like in his pitching coaches.
One possible candidate to keep an eye on is former Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, whose option for next season was declined this month. McDowell, a former Orioles reliever, was the Braves pitching coach for 11 years, taking over after longtime pitching coach Leo Mazzone left for the Orioles before the 2006 season.
Over his time in Atlanta, McDowell worked to groom young pitchers such as Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Jair Jurrjens, and guided career renaissances for former Orioles Jim Johnson and Bud Norris.
McDowell offers experience, but maybe most importantly he offers a link to Wallace, who was the Braves minor league pitching coordinator from 2009 to 2013.
The end of the month will be an important date because some coaching contracts expire then, which could open the lines of communication to speak with other candidates. So the next two weeks will be instrumental in making movement on the hire.