First-year Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace comes to Baltimore with an impressive resume. The Orioles will be the fifth team he has served as major league pitching coach.
But Wallace has plenty of experience working with minor league pitchers also, and he spent the past four seasons as minor league pitching coordinator for the Atlanta Braves, overseeing the progress and development of that organization’s minor league hurlers.
As the Orioles current group of young minor league pitchers continue to play to good reviews with national prospects analysts, Wallace enters an O’s pitching program in progress. Rick Peterson - a big league pitching coach himself for three teams - is entering his third year as the O’s director of pitching development.
While Wallace will have his hands full with the big league staff, he also certainly will have major impact on what is happening with the minor league pitchers as they try to make their way to Baltimore.
“I’ve known Rick for a number of years and I’ve talked to him several times since taking this job,” Wallace said at FanFest. “I know Mike Griffin (Triple-A Norfolk’s pitching coach) real well and he was in Triple-A when I was in Boston. I know a lot of our guys. First thing to do is make them aware they are important and we need the relationships they have built with these guys.”
I asked Wallace how involved he expected to be with the minor league pitchers.
“Well, I think you get in the development process,” he said. “Once an organization has a development process in place and I’ve talked to Rick about what they do. I’ve come from a pretty good organization where we developed some good young guys and have done it in the past.
“I don’t think there is one specific way to teach. What we call it is an individualized pitching program and everyone is different. You can’t have clones where everybody does the same thing. We want to make the guys understand that it’s an individual process for each guy. That is our job to figure that out.”
Wallace has plenty of young pitchers to try and help that have already been in the majors including a large group of pitchers that are still 27 or younger. A group that includes Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Steve Johnson, Kevin Gausman, T.J. McFarland and Zach Britton.
He doesn’t want that group to think the 2014 O’s season rides on how they and other young pitchers perform.
“If you put any undo pressure on yourself like, ‘They have to do it in order to compete,’ I’m not sure that is the right way to go,” Wallace said. “But as they mature and get into it, I think the guys will embrace it. They’ve all been in the American League East and we all know it’s a great division. When you are good, you embrace that and I think these guys are ready for that.”
The O’s don’t have a shortage of pitching prospects right now as Dylan Bundy, Gausman, Hunter Harvey and Eduardo Rodriguez were all ranked among the top 43 prospects in baseball by ESPN’s Keith Law. In addition to that foursome, pitchers Mike Wright and Tim Berry were also ranked among the O’s top 10 prospects by Baseball America.
So the job of Wallace, Peterson and others is to get the most out of the young pitchers on the O’s roster while also grooming the others to get there, as well.
In their first year working together, does Wallace see the potential for any differences or clashes as he works with the big league staff and Peterson with the minor league pitchers?
“I don’t think it’s the way any one of us wants it done,” Wallace said. “What you do by including the players is you see where they are and what works for them. If there is a clash, it will always be behind closed doors and always in the best interest of the player. What is important when you are on the field, it’s important for the players to physically see you together for their own best interest. Ultimately, that is what we are all about and if we’re not, then there is a clash but you take that up behind closed doors.”
Alumni report: ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick catches up with new Oakland A’s reliever Jim Johnson at spring training in Arizona. Read that story here.
MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko caught up new Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth in Viera, Fla. Check that out here.