SARASOTA, Fla. - Orioles starter Andrew Cashner knew about the club’s decision to hire Doug Brocail as pitching coach days before the news leaked. He kept it to himself, his approval muted until he arrived in camp.
He wasn’t going to be the one to break the story.
They have a history. Cashner posted a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts with the Rangers in 2017 while working with Brocail, prompting former executive vice president Dan Duquette to give him a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $16 million.
“I’m super-excited,” Cashner said this week. “I think just from a communications standpoint. The more communication the better. Kind of knowing what my program is even before stepping into camp. He knows what I need and I know what he needs.”
The Padres drafted Brocail in the first round in 1986 out of Lamar Community College in Colorado, but injuries delayed his major league debut until six years later and cost him the entire 2002 and 2003 seasons. Used mostly as a reliever, Brocail was 52-48 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.358 WHIP before his retirement following the 2009 season.
Brocail worked as the Astros pitching coach from June 2011 through October 2013, and later as a special assistant. He spent three seasons as Rangers pitching coach.
Cashner believes that each stop along the way, and the successes and failures, molded Brocail into the ideal person for the current position.
“Just the career that he brings in, and the experience,” Cashner said. “I think he’s had a ton of injuries. He played a long time in the minor leagues and he played a long time in the major leagues, so just the experience.
“I don’t think there’s a situation he hasn’t dealt with, so I think that’s very valuable as far as being a pitcher and having that as your backbone to lean on.”
Brocail noted at FanFest how he used to bring an old-school approach to coaching. “Pitch in, pound hard, use your breaking ball when needed.” But he had to adapt.
A happy medium was discovered between old and new school.
“I think that’s what makes him so great is there’s no one way,” Cashner said. “I think he’s a very smart individual on the field and off the field. We talk about a lot of different things and I think him being able to inject the analytics, and not only just that, but how guys used to pitch back then and how the game has changed now, I think he sees the whole picture for sure.”
* Did the young pitchers for the Orioles who were battered at the major league level last summer benefit from the experience?
It certainly beats the alternative of staying in the minors and wondering if the opportunity will come to them. And hard lessons can bring better results if you survive them.
“It really depends on the guy,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Guys can get there too quick and lose their confidence. I think that’s very realistic.”
The Orioles hope it didn’t scar the likes of Josh Rogers (8.49 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, .340 average-against in 11 2/3 innings), Cody Carroll (9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, .296 average-against in 17 innings), Evan Phillips (18.56 ERA, 2.44 WHIP, .304 average-against in 5 1/3 innings), Luis Ortiz (15.43 ERA, 4.29 WHIP, .500 average-against in 2 1/3 innings) and John Means (13.50 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, .375 average-against in 3 1/3 innings).
“Whether they had a tough time in the big leagues last year or not, I really just want them to know it’s a clean-slate deal for us,” Hyde said. “We’re just looking for guys to compete. I hope that they take that experience as a positive and they show what they can do here in big league camp.
“I’m not putting too much into what happened in September last year or if guys did struggle. That’s always like special circumstances. But for this camp it’s a clean slate. I just want guys to get better.”
Carroll knows that better times are ahead for him. He was scored upon in six of his last eight appearances. The Red Sox tallied five runs in 1 2/3 innings in Game 1 of a Sept. 26 doubleheader, but he responded with a scoreless inning against the Astros to close out the season.
“I think just having a little bit of time up there helps a ton,” said Carroll, 26, part of the return from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade. “You kind of get to see how the game’s played up there. It’s different than Triple-A, Double-A, whatever it is.
“I think for me, it was more about being yourself. Not trying to get up there and trying to do stuff you’re not used to, which I think is what I did in the long run. Yeah, I think it will help a ton here.”
Whether a long or short reliever, it’s imperative to have a short memory while still retaining whatever lessons come that can bring improvement. A bit complicated, but people in the industry understand it.
“Especially for me, it was tough,” Carroll said. “I’m not used to being whacked around like that, which is not fun for anybody. But definitely a learning experience for sure.
“Just trying to learn the game because it is different. It’s not nearly the same as anything else, which is just going to help.”
Carroll has enjoyed the way Hyde is running camp. Guys have taken to the concentrated workouts and relaxed atmosphere.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Broc and Hyde have been great. Lots of energy all the time, more ‘get your work in and get out of here.’ Not sitting around a long time, which is great. Spring training gets monotonous after a while. Here, it’s been station, station, station, get out of here. Get your work in and get out, which has been great.”