Deep cuts, deeper goal
Alberto: The unexpected hit machine for O’s Elias: Continued staff changes reflect Orioles’ ‘need to do things differently to get better’
For well-traveled utility infielder Hanser Alberto, the euphoria that came with the surprising news that he had made the Orioles’ Opening Day roster in March also came with an emotional price.
Alberto, Alberto, who was designated for assignment twice and waived four times during a four-month sojourn through the intricacies of Major League Baseball’s roster revision process, knew that the rebuilding Orioles probably afforded him his last best chance to earn a regular big league paycheck. He also knew that his place on the regularseason roster depended on several factors, all but one of which — his performance — were out of his control.
“To be honest, I always had that concern,” Alberto said Tuesday. “When [starting pitcher] Alex Cobb got hurt in spring training, I made the team and then
Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias described this week’s continued reductions in the baseball operations department — 14 staff members, including some in the Dominican Republic, after11scouts were let go late last month — as part of a painful but required overhaul of the organization, one that has shown early fruits but is far from finished.
“It’s tough stuff, but we’re trying to reposition our organization for the future, to compete in our division and in this game,” Elias said. “Decisions like this are often necessary and difficult, but right now we’re 46-97, and we’ve got a long way to go to get better. We need to do things differently to get better.
“We have a lot of work to do to improve this organization. It’s reflected right now with where we’re at at the major league level in the standings. I think we’ve done a lot of good work already in the farm system in a quick amount of time. It’s just kind of changing the philosophies and the leadership and the outlook there has injected a new energy there in a positive direction in the farm system, where we’re starting to see some results.”
Monday’s dismissals, which come as the minor league seasons are wrapping up and the team looks toward an important
DODGERS 7, O’S 3: Orioles: Dodgers:
offseason from a staffing perspective, touched every corner of the club’s operation.
Former Orioles pitcher and Florida rehabilitation coordinator Scott McGregor won’t be back in a baseball capacity, nor will former Orioles infielder Ryan Minor — most recently the manager at High-A Frederick — nor international scout Calvin Maduro.
Others not returning include Frederick pitching coach Justin Lord and hitting coach Bobby Rose; hitting coordinator Jeff Manto; catching coordinator Don Werner; Aberdeen development coach Jack Graham; GCL Orioles field coach Carlos Tosca; and special pitching instructor Ramón Martinez. Maduro is one of five staff members based in the Dominican Republic who will not return.
Elias said the connections to the organization that some of these individuals had, spanning decades, add “another layer of difficulty to the decision.” While such institutional knowledge will be valued going forward, he said “there are other aspects of the job that are important, if not more important.”
“We’re going to do what we’ve got to do, as I’ve said over and over,” Elias said. “We are in a highly competitive environment, any way you look at it. This is the most competitive environment in baseball, and we have no choice but to try to keep up.”
While discussing the farm system, Elias noted that scouts and coaches from the previous regime did a good job selecting and working with players, especially on the pitching side. But in bringing in minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt and allowing him to hire pitching coaches or development coaches to help implement what Elias described as a “very specific pitching program that we’re carrying out in the minor leagues,” the organization had dozens of pitching prospects take steps forward. The staffs at Double-A Bowie, Low-A Delmarva, Short-A Aberdeen and in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League were the best in their respective leagues.
“I think very quickly, in improving some of our developmental techniques, especially on the pitching side, we’ve been able to unlock a little bit of that potential,” Elias said.
The timing comes as all 30 major league teams are engaged in a player-development arms race, one Elias called a “very large wave of change going on around baseball.”
“The reality is there has been a significant amount of new info and new technology that has exploded across baseball in the last five or six years,” Elias said. “There are books being written about it right now, and we’re all doing our best to react to it, position ourselves to it.
“This is something that happens more frequently in other industries and business in general. Baseball has been kind of insulated from changes to this degree for a while. This is a period where there are just a lot of changes going on in a lot of different areas of investment for teams than there were five or 10 years ago.”
In Baltimore, that will mean a largely overhauled staff on the field side and in the office when it comes to scouting and player development. He said the dismissals might not be over — some minor league seasons only just ended and Double-A Bowie is still in the playoffs — but the expectation is the Orioles will hire people to fill the 25 vacant positions created, “if not more,” Elias said.
“That might not be the same title, the same location, whatever, but we’re going to be growing as a department, and player development specifically, I expect an increase in head count relative to what was here, for sure,” he said. “But we’ll be doing a lot of different stuff across all levels.
“There are going to be positions here that have never existed before with the Orioles. There will be others that are much more familiar, and I think when we all open the media guide on Feb. 1, we’ll see what exactly it looks like. We’ve got a lot to navigate between now and then, and these things take time to put together, but there will be a lot of hiring around here.”
Elias said the changes haven’t affected the morale of those who remain in the organization.
“I think they’re excited about the direction, especially the emphasis we’re going to have on scouting and player development going forward,” Elias said. “They know that changes happen in this business. I know there’s a lot of change going on in the industry generally, and they’re looking forward to seeing this through. Not a concern of mine.
“In fact, I think that the clarity of our direction, the unity that we’re going to have in our message and the way we do things across departments and across levels is going to improve morale quite a bit, beyond what the recent past has been.”
Around the horn
Right-hander Hunter Harvey, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 2 at the Tampa Bay Rays, threw a bullpen session before Tuesday’s game at Camden Yards as he deals with unspecified soreness, manager Brandon Hyde said.
“It’s just he had a little bit of soreness, and we just wanted to stay away from him for a while,” Hyde said.
Outfielder Trey Mancini received the Orioles’ 2019 Heart and Hustle Award from the Major League Baseball Players Association before Tuesday’s game in an on-field ceremony. The game’s alumni pick a player on each team who best embodies the values, spirit and tradition of the game, as well as passion for it.
Hanser Alberto is the fourth-leading hitter in the AL with a .321 average.
DODGERS @ORIOLES Tonight, 7:05 | TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM John Means (10-10, 3.50 ERA) Ross Stripling (4-4, 3.42 ERA)