Orioles make sure their system stays in sync

The talent that pumps through the pipeline in the Orioles system, with renewed force over the last few years, is accompanied now by an even flow that's moving managers and coaches.

The club hasn't announced its minor league staffs, but Single-A Aberdeen manager Kyle Moore is going to Double-A Bowie, while Buck Britton replaces Gary Kendall at Triple-A Norfolk. IronBirds pitching coach Josh Conway has been bumped up to the Baysox as the replacement for Justin Ramsey, who joins the Tides.

The uniforms may change, but the messages, techniques and philosophies stay the same at every level.

Long gone are the days when the Orioles system was a jumbled mess, with complaints about the lack of consistency in instruction that highlighted the dysfunction. The process of getting everyone on the same page began prior to the arrival of the current regime, but these are new voices with new ideas.

On the pitching side, it's one of Chris Holt's most important responsibilities. He's the Orioles pitching coach, approaching his second season in the role, but also remains the organization's director of pitching. His influence requiring his biggest reach.

It does not, however, require the managers and coaches to be robots.

Holt-Kneeling-at-Workout-Sidebar.jpg"Kudos to Holty for setting that whole thing up. The leadership role that he set was a big one as far as what we wanted to do from the outset," said Conway, the assistant pitching coach at Coastal Carolina before the Orioles hired him to serve as Bowie's development coach for the 2019 season.

"The one thing about him that I think we can all love is, yes, there are principles that we all want to stick by and have our language to speak to these players, so it's one continuous goal, one continuous language throughout. But he allows us to kind of be who we are as coaches, as well, and get that message to the player the way we do it.

"Ramsey obviously did a great job at Bowie last year with those guys. He and I communicated. I'm not the same pitching coach as Ramsey, but we speak the same language for the players. I may bring something that Ramsey doesn't and he may bring something that I don't, but at the end of the day, we can communicate with each other and give the players exactly what they need. Holty did a really good job of setting that whole thing up for us to have that foundation of what we want to get done and then allow the pitching coaches to take that on and run with it.

"It has been a nice little setup we have and it's going to continue forward. It's been really fun to be a part of this right now."

Conway was supposed to be Single-A Frederick's pitching coach in 2020, but the pandemic led to the cancellation of the minor league season. The Keys no longer are an Orioles affiliate, but Conway remained at the same level this summer with Aberdeen's change in classification from a short-season Single-A team.

The summer of 2020 wasn't a waste for the Orioles. They found ways to keep their minor leaguers engaged outside of the summer camp, organizing instructional and workout programs, and creative bonding exercises done via Zoom calls.

"It starts at the top with Holty," Conway said. "He set the tone for what we wanted to accomplish as far as what our staff wanted to do. He put us into a really good situation of planning out how we're going to get those guys ready and us taking our call lists and checking in with them, making sure they're at the facilities that they need to be.

"You're trying to help out as far as getting them baseballs or trying to connect. If I have a friend out in California who knows of a facility that's open, we try to make those connections for the players. And Holty did a really good job of stressing that and allowing us to continue to do our job basically from afar and communicate with these guys on Zoom calls and discuss the things that we would discuss in-season, just from afar.

"We tried to put a plan together as far as a buildup goes, something to mimic a season, mimic a spring training, get these guys simulated innings if we could, and the players held themselves accountable and went out and did their job, they got their work done. It was a breath of fresh air when we got into the 2021 season because guys were ready to go. And if they weren't ready to go, they figured out, 'I've got to get going.' It was a nice push upon everyone to really want to do their job and get better and make the most out of the situation, so kudos to those players."

The page is big enough to fit everyone. It must be that way to make it work.

Conway goes back to it while explaining the upticks in velocity that are seen throughout the farm. A system in sync with different personnel.

Easton Lucas, a pitcher acquired from the Marlins for infielder Jonathan Villar in December 2019, was a beneficiary last season at Aberdeen. A lefty who arrived in the organization with an 88-92 mph fastball that was touching 94 with the IronBirds.

"I think as an organization, we do a really good job of understanding how the body moves and pairing it up with the strength side and the athletic trainers," Conway said.

"This past season, it wasn't just me communicating with (Lucas), it was kind of that triangle of staff to make sure, 'Hey, are you doing what you need to do on the mound?' 'Yes.' 'Are you doing what you need to do in the weight room to help affect what you do on the mound?' 'Yes.' 'Are you doing things in the training room to stay healthy, to stay ready to go?' 'Yes.'

"We like to use the word 'collaboration' and that's kind of what we did was just come up with a plan for these guys as far as how they're moving, what they do, what they don't do. We come up with the best plan for them to really see success. And I think everyone was on board with that and did a really good job this season. It was good to see."

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