Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters tonight during a conference call that he didn’t downgrade any of the pitching coach candidates for being too old or too young. Age didn’t matter.
The Orioles chose 66-year-old Dave Wallace, who spent the past four seasons as the Braves minor league pitching coordinator, over former Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, Mariners pitching coach Carl Willis and Rangers bullpen coach Andy Hawkins.
“The guys we interviewed who we didn’t take will end up in the big leagues this season,” Showalter said. “We take a lot of pride in what we’re trying to do in Baltimore and for our fans. And we know this is very important for our future.
“I didn’t penalize anybody who was too young or older than normal. What’s normal? I’m an old you-know-what. But anybody who wants to try to match up the energy level and want-to level of Dave or I, bring it on.”
Wallace is clearly up for any challenge.
“I think you never stop teaching when it comes to baseball, and especially young pitchers,” he said. “I have an affinity for helping young pitchers. It’s always a pleasure to see these young kids come along. You make your own evaluations - study them, learn their personalities, let them learn to trust you and understand the communication that has to go on.
“I have to have a way to bring out their strengths to their advantage and let them have some input on what goes on in their view.”
Showalter told me earlier today that Wallace wanted the Orioles as much as they wanted him, making for a perfect fit. Wallace agreed with that assessment.
“I think it was a couple of things,” he said. “There are a couple people in the organization that I have respected from afar for a long time. I’ve had the pleasure of being across the field from Buck on occasion, and I know Dan (Duquette’s) reputation and have a tremendous amount of respect for them and Orioles history. It’s a fantastic baseball town and a great place to be.
“Those two guys, I know what they do, I know their work ethic and the respect they command. And I’ll see if I can learn from two bright minds in baseball and continue whatever it is that I can bring to the table with the experience I’ve had. Especially developing young pitchers, which I said previously is a great passion of mine.”
Wallace left a stable of good young pitchers in Atlanta. It wasn’t a simple decision despite the move to Baltimore representing a promotion, but he welcomed the opportunity to “get the competitive juices flowing again and see the best players in the world compete, and help out the young guys and nudge them along to make them a little bit better.”
“It’s been a tough couple of days, I want to tell you,” Wallace said. “It’s a good situation over there. What they have going on with their young staff is great. But I think those of us who have been down on the field and have a burning desire to compete, when you get a chance to do that on a stage like Baltimore, I don’t think you pass it up.
“The intriguing part is pulling at you and attracting you to come here, but you leave behind some young players. You really have a passion and special feelings for the relationships you develop with young players. It’s tough to take yourself away from that. But by the same token, they’re well on their way and they have other young kids coming along. As a teacher, it’s kind of tough sometimes to walk away from those students, but you’re also proud because you had somewhat of an input on what they accomplished over the last few years.”
Wallace said he’s familiar with the abilities of the pitchers on the Orioles’ staff, “but not the personalities.” It’s an important distinction.
“That’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some effort,” he said. “But I know enough people in the game and have talked to some people who had them and know them that there’s some real talent. There’s no doubt about that. But what you have to get to know that’s more important than talent is personalities.
“I hope over the course of the winter to touch base with all the guys and introduce myself and get their take on what’s going on and let them know what they can expect we can have with a relationship. Part of the challenge and the fun moving forward is figuring out how these guys go about their business and how to push buttons. That’s the intriguing and fun part. But certainly some talent is there.”
Wallace isn’t a complete outsider. He knows Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin from their time together in the Red Sox organization. He knows Rick Peterson, the Orioles’ director of pitching development. He’s familiar with some of the other pitching coaches in the system.
He plans on talking to all of them about how they go about their jobs.
As for his pitching philosophy, Wallace said, “It’s commanding the baseball, not control. You need to command the strike zone and throw your secondary pitches in the right situations. And understand how to exploit their weakness and utilize your strengths.
“You make players understand that not one of us has the answer, but I think collectively we will do the best we can do to get the right answer. Everybody has to put their egos aside and figure out what’s best for the player. That’s ultimately our job.”
Wallace also said he encourages input from former pitchers in the broadcast booth. It read like a welcome sign for Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, a MASN analyst.
“We need to bring everyone on board for the right reason,” Wallace said, “which is to make the players better.”