If you want to talk about the changes, upgrades and improvements in the Orioles’ minor leagues over the last, say, 10 or more years, Baltimore native Gary Kendall is a great guy to talk to.
The 2013 season is his 14th in the Orioles’ organization and he has managed at Bluefield, Delmarva, Aberdeen and Bowie. This will be his this third year as Baysox manager after he led the team to a record of 75-66 in 2011 and to a mark of 78-64 last year. In 2012, he guided the team to an Eastern League playoff berth.
The Double-A level is critical for any organization and the O’s feel they have the right man for the job there in the well-respected Kendall.
On Tuesday, while meeting with a group of reporters in his Prince George’s Stadium office, Kendall was very upbeat about where the O’s minors are heading this year.
He said the overall organizational depth is very solid now under Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter and new director of player development Brian Graham. He said he can remember a time when he was not sure a promoted player would be able to hack it at the the next level.
One area he saw evidence of that depth was in the quality of players the organization cut loose the last two weeks.
“We released some good players, players that will help teams in other leagues,” Kendall said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t play well, but we didn’t have a job for them due to the amount of quality we have.
“I’ve been here since 2000. In looking at our roster, the players here versus I remember when we used to promote players coming off subpar seasons out of necessity. Now, we have some surplus and jobs are hard to get. Guys have to earn it. We saw what Dan and Buck brought in with the outfield situation.
“It’s a nice problem to have when you know that if you lose a good player, you are going to get a good player. That’s a tribute to the thoroughness and the development at the major league and minor league levels with the people we have in charge.”
Showalter has talked about the talent pool for the Orioles being the 75 players on the rosters at Bowie, Norfolk and Baltimore. Players know if they excel in Bowie, there is even a chance they could leapfrog Triple-A on their way to the big leagues.
“To know guys can get to Baltimore from Double-A, like (Manny) Machado did last year, guys know they can go from here. It’s a good problem to have,” Kendall said.
Graham is in his sixth season with the Orioles but is starting his first year in the role of director of player development. He had a similar position with the Pirates for six seasons before coming to Baltimore. It was a period where Pittsburgh sent 54 homegrown players to the majors and were named the 2002 Topps Baseball “Organization of the Year.”
Kendall is a fan of the spring camp that Graham led in February and March at Twin Lakes Park.
“Awesome. He was our field coordinator last year and was a guy I went to a lot for opinions,” Kendall said. “He has some big league experience and ran a great spring training. We’ve got a good man in Brian. I’m excited about him, he’s great for the organization.
“What I see now is so much of the development taking place with him and Buck. They kind of beat to the same drum. You knew what was going on at Ed Smith was being transferred over. It’s demanding and thorough and detailed. The players feel that and sense that.”