Search for pitch­ing coach fo­cused on pro­tect­ing sta­bil­ity

Showal­ter to look in­side for Wal­lace re­place­ment, but big league ex­pe­ri­ence key

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina eencina@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­dieInTheYard

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.

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