McDow­ell, Mills hired to di­rect pitch­ing staff

Braves pitch­ers were highly rated; Mills coached Bundy, Givens, Hart in mi­nors

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

In new Ori­oles pitch­ing coach Roger McDow­ell and bullpen coach Alan Mills, the or­ga­ni­za­tion hopes the har­mo­nious dy­namic be­tween the pitch­ing staff and their coaches that grew un­der the pre­vi­ous regime per­sists.

McDow­ell, who spent the past11sea­sons with the At­lanta Braves and said he learned ev­ery­thing he knows about be­ing a pitch­ing coach from his pre­de­ces­sor with the Ori­oles, Dave Wal­lace, boiled down his phi­los­o­phy to one sim­ple phrase.

“They don’t care how much you know un­til they know how much you care,” McDow­ell said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve al­ways tried to main­tain, car­ing about the in­di­vid­ual, un­der­stand­ing them, know­ing them, get­ting to know them and un­der­stand­ing the ups and downs of a ma­jor league sea­son and hav­ing that guy in your cor­ner.”

Wal­lace be­queathed the phrase to him in the early 2000s in the Dodgers or­ga­ni­za­tion. McDow­ell brings it to Bal­ti­more now as he hopes to con­tinue his men­tor’s work with the Ori­oles.

“Talk­ing to a lot of the play­ers, they’re ex­cited about it,” man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “Ev­ery­body felt good about Dom [Chiti] and [Wal­lace], and we felt like this was an op­por­tu­nity to carry on smooth in some ar­eas.” Alan Mills, right, the Dou­ble-A Bowie pitch­ing coach in 2015-2016, talks with Ori­oles in­fielder Jonathan Schoop.

McDow­ell and Mills, the for­mer pitch­ing coach at Dou­ble-A Bowie, were an­nounced in their new roles Tues­day. McDow­ell took over in At­lanta ahead of the 2006 sea­son, and the pitch­ing staff was peren­ni­ally ranked among the best in the Na­tional League un­til the Braves’ re­build­ing ef­fort be­gan.

Un­der his ste­ward­ship, veter­ans and young pitch­ers thrived. Vet­eran Tim Hud­son, closer Craig Kim­brel and blos­som­ing star Julio Te­heran were just a few of the Braves pitch­ers who made the All-Star Game.

McDow­ell com­piled a 3.30 ERA and 129 ca­reer saves over his big league ca­reer, break­ing into the league in 1985 with the New York Mets. The last stop on his ma­jor­league ca­reer was with the Ori­oles, when in 1996 McDow­ell had a 4.25 ERA in 591⁄ in­nings.

Mills, who has spent five sea­sons coach­ing in the Ori­oles or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­clud­ing the past two at Bowie, has worked with ma­jor league pitch­ers Dy­lan Bundy, My­chal Givens and Don­nie Hart, among oth­ers. He pitched parts of eight sea­sons for the Ori­oles over his 12-year ma­jor league ca­reer, and was a team­mate of McDow­ell’s with the Ori­oles in 1996.

McDow­ell, a re­puted jokester as a player, said Mills was his ideal team­mate, fun to be around but a fierce com­peti­tor in­side the lines. Mills, who grew up us­ing McDow­ell in “RBI Base­ball” on Nin­tendo, said he learned plenty from the vet­eran that year.

The two re­place Wal­lace, who re­tired from ma­jor league coach­ing, and Chiti, whose con­tract as bullpen coach was not re­newed for 2017. Chiti will be the Braves’ di­rec­tor of pitch­ing, Wal­lace a spe­cial as­sis­tant.

While Wal­lace’s de­par­ture was ex­pected, the loss of both cre­ated con­cerns that a once-volatile po­si­tion on the coach­ing staff could be­come one again.

McDow­ell is the sixth pitch­ing coach here un­der Showal­ter, and Wal­lace, who served three years, had the most tan­gi­ble im­pact on the club’s stock of young pitch­ing. The pair’s tac­tics were lauded by Chris Till­man and Zach Brit­ton, among oth­ers.

Showal­ter doesn’t be­lieve any of that is lost with the new duo.

“They both bring a great re­sume, but like both of them say, it’s a peo­ple game,” Showal­ter said. “It’s a re­la­tion­ship. Sin­cer­ity plays out in a hurry, and I think these guys, the play­ers will re­al­ize they’ve got no agenda other than mak­ing these guys as good as they can be and mak­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion suc­cess­ful. … I think we’re very for­tu­nate to have peo­ple like this, one al­ready on board and one out there avail­able.”

McDow­ell and Mills take over a pitch­ing staff that seems un­likely to change from 2016 to 2017. It re­turns six start­ing pitch­ers who ended the year in the ro­ta­tion — Till­man, Kevin Gaus­man, Bundy, Ubaldo Jimenez, Yo­vani Gal­lardo and Wade Mi­ley — as well as a strong bullpen led by Brit­ton and vet­eran Dar­ren O’Day.

For McDow­ell, the process of be­com­ing fa­mil­iar with that staff will be two-pronged. He’ll im­merse him­self in video of their out­ings, study­ing ev­ery­thing from the con­sis­tency of their me­chan­ics and their plans of at­tacks for bat­ters to the shape of their pitches. But he knows you can’t learn ev­ery­thing from video.

“Hope­fully, it’ll be by spring train­ing, hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions, whether it’s face to face or on the phone, get­ting to know them and get­ting them as com­fort­able as they can be,” McDow­ell said.

For Mills, who has also been with the ma­jor league team dur­ing re­cent spring train­ings, the process will be to build on the re­la­tion­ships that al­ready ex­ist.

“I’ve worked with them be­fore, but never in the course of a sea­son,” Mills said. “For me, it’s just some­thing where I should get fa­mil­iar with the guys as much as pos­si­ble and me get­ting fa­mil­iar with them on a daily ba­sis. The things that they’ve done over the past few years speak for them­selves.”

The Ori­oles still have to re­place di­rec­tor of pitch­ing devel­op­ment Rick Peter­son and as­sis­tant hit­ting coach Mark Quinn, a process Showal­ter said was de­pri­or­i­tized as the team filled these roles. That this busi­ness is squared away, how­ever, pleases the man­ager.

“Ob­vi­ously, it’s one thing on pa­per,” Showal­ter said. “It’s an­other thing ac­tu­ally in prac­ti­cal­ity in the sea­son, but we’re off to, we think, a good start in the off­sea­son with these two ad­di­tions.” McDow­ell

JUSTIN K. ALLER/GETTY IMAGES 2015

New Ori­oles pitch­ing coach Roger McDow­ell, cen­ter, dur­ing a Braves mound visit, said he learned ev­ery­thing he knows about be­ing a pitch­ing coach from his pre­de­ces­sor with the Ori­oles, Dave Wal­lace. McDow­ell pitched for the Ori­oles in 1996.

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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