He pitched for the Orioles for nine seasons, including the 1996 and 1997 playoffs, and Alan Mills returned to the O’s organization last year.
For the second season in a row, he is the pitching coach at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and will lead his staff of young hurlers into a new season for the IronBirds that begins at 7:35 p.m. tonight against Hudson Valley at Ripken Stadium.
“I always wanted to get back (with the Orioles),” Mills said. “I’d been interested in doing that for several years before it happened. I stayed in touch with several guys I played with. It kind of made itself available to me last year and I am glad to be back.”
Mills was the head coach at his alma mater, Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Fla., in 2010-11 before rejoining the Orioles last season.
Mills went 32-21 with a 4.16 ERA in 346 games over nine seasons with the Orioles from 1992 to 2001. He had an ERA of 2.70 in seven postseason games in 1996-97. He knew what it was like to win as an Oriole as a player and he saw the winning restored at the big league level when he was a coach for Aberdeen last year. He said the winning at the big league level also impacts what happens in the minors.
“It builds a sense of pride when you win,” Mills said. “Last year’s team reminded me of my first year as an Oriole in 1992 with some young guys. The chemistry I saw in spring training last year and leadership they have in (Buck) Showalter.
“I was with the Yankees when he was a minor league manager and I knew when they hired him things could turn around. It all trickles down and reaches all of us.”
Mills works under the O’s director of pitching development, Rick Peterson.
“He’s implemented a throwing program that helps the pitchers develop a repeatable delivery. When it comes to pitching, when you have a repeatable delivery it eliminates a lot of the flaws in their mechanics,” Mills said.
“You have to throw strikes at this level. I was in A ball for three straight years in the minors. I threw hard, but didn’t throw strikes and I didn’t advance until I developed a repeatable delivery.”
Aberdeen’s opening night starting pitcher will be 21-year-old right-hander Sebastian Vader, an 18th-round draft pick from San Marcos (Calif.) High School in 2010. He went 1-8 with a 3.71 ERA for Aberdeen last year and led the IronBirds in starts and innings.
What does Vader need to do to improve his game?
“Just develop consistency. With any pitcher at this level, you are learning how to be a pro and how to prepare yourself on a daily basis. It’s a game of adjustments and some of our guys need to adjust from hitter to hitter and pitch to pitch,” Mills said.
Aberdeen’s opening night roster (2013 draft picks listed with round selected):
Pitchers: Steven Brault (round 11), Jose Figuereo, Michael Joseph, Williams Louico, Harry Marino, Luc Rennie, David Richardson, Jorge Rivera, Alex Santana, Janser Severino, Austin Urban, Sebastian Vader, Jimmy Yacabonis (round 13).
Catchers: Jack Graham, Scott Kalush, Tanner Murphy.
Infielders: Jared Breen (round 24), Jeff Kemp (round 33), Kristopher Richards, Hector Veloz.
Outfielders: George Barber, Connor Bierfeldt (round 29), Manny Hernandez, Sam Kimmel, Anthony Vega.