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’

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Peter Sch­muck By Jon Me­oli

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.

WILL NEW­TON/GETTY

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)

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