When the new seasons begin for the Orioles’ minor league affiliates in April, the O’s want their minor league managers to take on even more responsibility than they have previously and will provide them some help to do that.
To make sure the four full-season clubs - Norfolk, Bowie, Frederick and Delmarva - are ready to provide proper instruction for the players and that everything is running smoothly and efficiently, the club will place at least one minor league staff member with each team to work directly with the manager and oversee the startup of the operation.
Three of the staff - Bobby Dickerson, Mike Bordick and Brian Graham - all spent some time in the Orioles’ dugout after manager Buck Showalter took over and they have first-hand knowledge of how Showalter runs the game and likes things run at the big league level that they will look to pass on to the minor league managers.
Dickerson, who spent some time last summer as the manager at Triple-A Norfolk, will begin the year with Single-A Delmarva. He’ll spend the first 17 days, through a homestand and road trip, with the Shorebirds assisting second-year manager Ryan Minor.
Dickerson has ties to Showalter dating to when Showalter managed Arizona and Dickerson was on the Diamondbacks’ minor league staff.
Bordick and/or David Stockstill will be with Norfolk. Graham is expected to spend time with either Single-A Frederick or Double-A Bowie early in the year with O’s director of player development John Stockstill taking the remaining club.
It’s likely that those instructors will move to other affiliates as the process of keeping tabs on the clubs continues through the year.
“They will take everything that Buck (Showalter) is teaching and take it and apply it to all levels of the minor league system,” Stockstill said.
“You used to have rovers that would go in for five days and leave. We just have simply replaced that situation and we need to be clicking on all cylinders at every affiliate,” he said.
The five men will help the manager at each affiliate when the seasons start and serve as another set of eyes and ears to make sure things are running exactly as they need to. Plus, they also have a sense of how Showalter runs his dugout and his players in Baltimore.
“It is not just a sense of that, they have a first-hand working knowledge of Buck and have been on the bench with him and they are taking that to the minor leagues,” Stockstill added.
“For instance, Bobby Dickerson will not just oversee the infield play. He will oversee every aspect of the game to make sure there is no T uncrossed or I dotted before he leaves the Delmarva operation.
“That doesn’t take anything away from the manager or pitching coach. But how can a pitching coach that has not been in big league camp know what they are doing (in big league camp).”
The group of five that will be with those affiliates are not there necessarily as the boss of the manager, but rather to provide help as they check each other.
“In Triple-A it’s a little different than the other levels. (Norfolk manager) Gary Allenson spent a lot of the year last year as a Major League coach and will be on top of everything,” Stockstill said.
Stockstill also wants the minor league managers to have more responsibility and accountability this season. Some decisions they may have had to run by a boss from Baltimore in the past, they will now make on their own.
“Our managers will be taking on a role more of oversight, similar to what a major league manager does. He is over the pitching coach, over every aspect of his club.
“The manager is responsible for everything that happens with his club, from top to bottom. The responsibility is like how a big league manager is totally responsible for his staff. It is more accountability for our managers, the buck stops there,” Stockstill said.
My take on this: The four men that will manage those full season clubs - Allenson, Gary Kendall, Orlando Gomez and Minor - are talented, driven and capable. If the organization wants to put more responsibility on them, they will be fully ready to accept it. Those clubs are in good hands.
But it’s not a bad idea to have another member from the minor league staff be there to be sure everything is getting done as expected.
It’s probably no mistake that a respected instructor like Dickerson gets paired with a young manager like Minor to help start the Delmarva season.
In recent years, the O’s have worked hard to perform drills and pregame work on the farm as they would in Baltimore. This is just another extension of that in some ways.
In another sense, it is an extension of BuckBall that takes it to the minors. The sense of urgency and focus that Showalter has brought to the Orioles is going to work its way to the minor league players. That is not a bad thing.