Yesterday is a blur, but it cleared up a few issues.
The Orioles have a new pitching coach, former Braves minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace. They have three Gold Glove winners in center fielder Adam Jones, shortstop J.J. Hardy and third baseman Manny Machado. They had a lot going on yesterday.
Wallace was officially hired six days after his interview. All four candidates made strong impressions on manager Buck Showalter, executive vice president Dan Duquette and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson - the only members of the organization who attended the meetings.
Showalter hasn’t been able to hold onto his last two pitching coaches, through no fault of his own. Mark Connor left for health reasons and Rick Adair took a personal leave of absence for a variety of reasons.
Showalter inherited Rick Kranitz, hired Connor, moved Adair from bullpen coach to pitching coach and moved Bill Castro from bullpen coach to pitching coach. Wallace qualifies as a second hire.
It’s obvious that while the Orioles respect and value Castro, Scott McGregor, Mike Griffin and Rick Peterson, they wanted an outside opinion of their pitching staff. They wanted fresh eyes.
If the Orioles are going to contend every year, if they’re going to get deep in the playoffs and win their first World Series since 1983, they will need improvements from their rotation. An organization that preaches the importance of growing the arms knows that it must do a better job of developing them.
Look at the teams that made the playoffs this year. Stud pitchers.
“We got Chris Tillman and helped him develop into a 200-inning pitcher, and the goal is to help all of our starters get to that point,” Duquette said. “We have good veteran leadership in Dave Wallace and a good, solid program in the minors to help develop young pitchers like Kevin Gausman and Mike Wright, who was one of the top pitchers in the Eastern League, Eduardo Rodriguez, who’s on the horizon, and Tim Berry. If we can help them to learn on the job with a consistent message with all the best instructors and resources we can provide, it will give us a stable platform to have competitive teams for years to come.”
Sounds like a plan, right?
Here’s another one.
“I think it’s important for an organization to have a philosophy,” Duquette said. “It’s pretty clear. You want guys to throw strikes, you want them to have a changeup, and you want them to be aggressive and field their position. There’s a lot of good teaching going on, but I think the leadership you have with the major league club sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
“I think we helped the Orioles (yesterday) by adding a solid veteran leader in Dave Wallace. Dave’s the kind of teacher that’s not only willing to help our pitchers learn on the job, but he will help other pitching coaches in the organization learn their jobs better. That’s the type of track record he’s developed over the years.”
When I reached Showalter by phone yesterday, he initially reacted as though he had no idea that Wallace was hired. I totally fell for it. I still have a small cut inside my cheek from the hook.
“Um, yeah,” I said after a long pause. “The Orioles just announced it.”
Showalter let me in on the joke and proceeded to speak of Wallace in glowing terms. I don’t recall hearing him this excited since he took over the team.
“I’ve respected Dave from afar,” Showalter said last night. “He knows I’m not a guy who spends a lot of time with other coaches and managers, but I’ve always respected him. I think very quietly we’ve assembled a quality coaching staff.
“I wake up in the morning feeling really good about where we’re headed with our pitching.”
There’s one more hire to make, unless the Orioles bring back Castro or McGregor as bullpen coach. That would be one more announcement.
The Orioles really did their homework on Wallace, including a health check. He became ill while driving to spring training in February 2006, and doctors found that he was suffering from a severe infection in a hip that had been replaced 12 years earlier. It almost killed him.
Wallace had the hip replaced again in June and returned to the Red Sox on Aug. 8, but he resigned at the end of the season.
He’s in good health, and the Orioles are convinced that their pitchers will be in good hands.